FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES
For Sandra :)
Sam was worried. So worried he had forgotten tables many times and Mrs Jackson had scolded him as customers had complained for delays. So worried he had forgotten his chocolate bar. And so worried he had walked straight home without forgetting himself in front of an electronics store window.
He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know who to say to, because he knew he was retarded. Neighbours' boys used that word for him, and he knew what it meant. It meant people like him who didn't get things and who were slow. His Mom called him special, and his dad didn't call him anything as Mom said he had walked away.
Sam wasn't sure if special meant the same as retarded. It did feel better though. But Sam was sure that he had seen on his lunch break something that felt really bad. Really really bad.
But nobody would listen to retarded. So Sam munched the dinner his astonished Mom had quickly prepared, and forgot on which channel was The Third Man he wanted to see, and forgot to reply to his Mom's questions of how his day had been, as he suddenly saw on the telly a glimpse of a face he remembered. And he remembered there were two letters and a number. And he remembered where to find them.
And when Sam's Mom had finished with the dishes, her son was nowhere to be seen.
George Cowley was deep in his thoughts when he stepped out of the door of the HQ. Taking his car from the garage he wondered whether he was really becoming old, or mellow, or both, as he felt tired... not tired, really, but bored. Not even the young annoying assistant of Home Secretary had managed to get his blood boil, like he usually did. The whole week had been damn boring, paperwork, budget, meetings, even the two usual hellions had been quiet and placid. Ach alright then, he wasn't an old bore, he was a senior and bored... maybe he should order Bodie join him at the fencing floor tomorrow afternoon, they were on standby so that would be ok, he needed something to get his blood flow... he might order Doyle there too, it was always interesting to monitor the differences between the two, whatever the weapon.
The thought of having some sort of good fights cheered the old Scot, but his smile faded when driving out to the street, a figure ran almost in front of his car, and the Granada's brakes screeched to a halt. "What the..." the startled Scot bounced out of the car. "Did you try to kill yourself, eh?" The figure took his jacket's hood down and panted. "Sorry Mister... I'm sorry... I was in a hurry... sorry Mister... " Mr Cowley thought he had seen the round face somewhere, and swallowed his temper when he connected the face to a place. That cafeteria a few blocks away. "Ach sorry... Sam, is it?" Young man nodded, still puffy. "If you're in hurry somewhere, I'd rather give you a lift. You might even get alive to where it is you are going." Sam thought while puffing, that it did sound scolding but still it was friendly at the same time. Some people were strange. But he finally got it out of his mouth "No Mister, sorry Mister, I ran to you." Mr Cowley was surprised, but seeing the clear distress of the young handicapped he told the lad to sit down in the passenger seat and reversed back to the yard where he wouldn't be blocking anybody's way. "Now, Sam, tell me why you wanted to see me." And indeed, since the first words, the Controller's blood was flowing incredibly fast.
Almost an hour later Cowley's Granada stopped in front of Sam's home. Again, Mr Cowley was deep in his thoughts, and Sam was scared to bother him, but he wanted to ask just one big question.
"Mister... is special the same as retarded?" The Controller was startled out of his grim thoughts. "What do you mean, lad?" Sam blushed. "Lad" did feel friendly. "I mean, neighbours' boys say I'm retarded, and my Mom says I'm special. I wonder if they can be the same, but special feels nicer than retarded."
"Och Sam... never you mind the neighbours. Retarded is not a very nice word, but special is, and your Mom is right." Mister Cowley had a very nice smile. And to Sam's great surprise and delight, Mister Cowley stepped out of the car, and escorted him to his own door, introducing himself with his title and all, and told Sam's Mom that Sam had given him vital information considering a serious crime, and that two of his men might pop in later, just to have a little chat and to ask a couple of more specific questions, and it was nothing to be worried about although they might come late. But Sam had done a marvellous job, and Mrs Brown should indeed be very proud of him. And Mister Cowley had talked very loud, much louder than he had talked in the car, and much louder than Mom ever allowed Sam to talk, as she always said that neighbours would hear every word. And both Sam and his Mom blushed, and Mom was fluttering even after Mister Cowley had left, and Sam was happier than ever in his life... yeah this was just like in a film!
"How much do you trust this retarded fella, Sir?" there was a deep frown above the green eyes. And for once, he was the calmer part of the duo while mumbled curses circled around the room and Mr Cowley was seriously worried over the few embellishments he had allowed Betty place in his office. "Completely. And don't use that word, Doyle, it's degrading. Sam is slow but he's a good lad. As tangled as his story was, he answered to my questions consistently over and over again, and in his strange film-nutter manner gave quite a good description of the men. And Bodie, SIT DOWN, DAMMIT! You're going to need your energy for work tonight." Bodie crashed on a chair so that his boss made a mental note the piece of furniture should be thoroughly checked before he would let anyone sit on it again.
"Is there any chance Sam could have been mistaken?" Mr Cowley met the pleading blue eyes. "No, Bodie, I'm sorry. Sam was positive." Doyle was pacing around now. "KGB?" His boss was tapping his own teeth with a pen. "No... sounds like them, in a way, but I don't think so. They ARE interested, I know that, but I'm quite sure they wouldn't have... " After a moment he shook his head. "No, not KGB. Too much of a risk for them, and not enough gain. They are not that stupid, at least not the ones here at the moment. But I'll make some inquiries anyway." He sighed, and handed pieces of paper across his desk. "Here are descriptions of the men, one for each. I wish you both are better knowledgeable of films than I am, it would certainly help you as I definitely don't know what kind of hair Mad Max has, especially if the colour is Ilya Kuryakin's. Bodie, you go to our own archives. Concentrate on known hired guns and kidnappers, also foreign. Doyle, you take the Met, same priorising. And as hopefully that piece of garbage Grant will try to get on your way, tell him that if he doesn't fully co-operate, I'll have a little chat with his wife. And his girlfriends." Doyle's eyebrows shot sky-high. "Well, that's faster than bothering our civil servants with written authorizations, weekend coming and all. Besides, that bonnie redhead Marie should really get her car fixed." Now even Bodie had to raise his eyebrows and an incredulous chuckle escaped Doyle.
"You certainly know how to make yourself loved, Sir," Bodie couldn't help but grin despite the sick feeling in his stomach. His chief pushed himself on his feet. "Aye, and even more people will love me after tonight, lads. Now, I'm off to meet someone who might be able to help, and after that I go and pester the MI6. Have your R/T's with you, I'll have mine when I'm not in my car, although do not try to contact me first, I'll let you know when I'm available. And the less you need to talk about the object with others, the better. Although I'm sure I don't need to remind you." Both men nodded and watched their chief pulling on his jacket. "Technicians will report to you if they find anything out of the ordinary, Bodie. You didn't see anything odd in the house when you dropped in, did you?" Bodie shook his head. "Neither did I... anyway, our boys there are working as fast as they can, and I called a surveillance-team, just to be on the safe side, and Jax is already here by the switchboard. You Bodie fill him in with things you consider relevant. He's our contact here, and make sure he'll be aware where you are at all times – just to be on the safe side as well, in case you find out something before I can get in touch with you. Use also all your possible old contacts, in case some information has leaked and they have heard something. Oh and by the way, Macklin will be in too. He's already getting in touch with some of his own old rat-pack. Whatever names may pop up, you keep each other up to date, and Mrs Brown said you can go and speak with Sam even in the middle of the night, if need be. Off you go now." Both agents got on their feet to leave. Bodie turned back at the door and looked at his chief. "Don't worry, lad." The voice was quiet. "I do anything in my power... and if need be, quite a few things more." Bodie saw the stern blue eyes. "You can count on that, sonny." Bodie nodded gratefully and left.
Scottish curses were in good use an hour later when Mr Cowley shut a door behind him. Bloody waste of time, although he had been quite sure the Americans would have known something. They were up to their eyes with their own problems though, and the Controller had to admit he might not have been too interested to use resources for anything else either, had he been his American local counterpart. Besides, he hadn't been too eager to give the Yankees too much information, he didn't yet trust the new man.
He sat in his car and paused for a second, tapping the wheel with his fingers, and a sudden idea came to his mind. His colleagues in MI5 and MI6 would get a fit if they knew, so would the Minister, and if this was a miscalculation, he himself might get to bitterly regret later... but he had promised Bodie. And he had promised himself. Ach, what the hell, he hadn't committed any notable misconducts for quite some time, so if things went right he might slip more severe consequences, and if not, well his hide was thick enough to take the lashing... And if the good Lord had already allowed Sam to be at the right place at the right time, maybe He would grant some small mercy to go on with, too. The Controller consulted his watch. Worth the try. The Granada started to roll on, pulled over for a few minutes beside a telephone box before continuing, and picked up a passenger 15 minutes later.
"Good evening, Major." A tall young man greeted him respectfully after sitting in the passenger seat. "Good evening, Captain. But please do forget that Major, it's a title I have dropped many years ago." The Controller shook hands with the young officer before he joined the traffic again. "Ah, but Mister sounds so plain... anyway, Sir, I must compliment you. I only have had time to make two... contacts... here, and you have already managed to get the call code of one of them." The Captain's smile was dry. "Yet you didn't look a bit surprised when I showed up," the Controller remarked, changing the lane to get to a better route. "Ah, as a matter of fact, I had given that contact a new code only one hour ago, so I knew the caller couldn't possibly be him, but I hadn't yet reported to my superiors so our switchboard didn't know that either. But curiosity killed the cat, as they say. Besides, I was quite sure the call might lead to something important, so I decided to give it a try." Mr Cowley chuckled, he liked this young officer. "You're a bold man, Captain, please don't become reckless. It would be a pity to lose an adversary like you, although you will certainly give us lots of grey hair in due time." The younger man grinned. "Oh, not half as bold as you, Controller. But now, as you have the reputation of cutting to the chase, as our American friends would say, would you be so kind and tell me what grants me this, maybe a little bit extraordinary, or if you ask my colleagues, even dubious honour?" Smile vanished from Controller's face and he briefed the Captain who fell silent for quite some time.
"I was aware you naturally were informed about our contact, Sir. And I assure you, we have nothing to do with this matter, no matter how familiar that modus operandi sounds. NOTHING." The Controller nodded. "I was sure of that, don't worry Captain. I didn't come here to accuse you, but to ask you for your help. I knew that you had coffee together earlier today, and nobody is as pleasant company for that as our mutual friend."
Captain gave the older man a serious look and he spoke very slowly. "Now don't get me wrong, dear Controller, but even if my superiors would approve of your request, it might prove costly for you. Maybe even TOO costly, and no results guaranteed. Have you thought of that?" The older man nodded. "I'm a quick thinker, Captain. And believe me, if there was any other source, I most definitely would use that. But I have to admit something – I didn't come to ask help from your superiors, I came to ask help from you. You are one of the few men within those walls of your building whom I consider to be fair, and a good, decent and genuinely capable officer. Think about this more as a professional courtesy, if it makes my plea sound any better."
"And if I reject your plea?" The Controller sighed and hemmed. "Then you reject it. Nothing more from my part will follow, but naturally if this matter becomes public, as may well happen for reasons not in my control, there are certain groups who will happily start pointing fingers at your people." Captain mumbled something in his own language before commenting. "Certainly you are aware that this matter does not have any greater international importance, or practical importance to any intelligence actions whatever the outcome." The Controller nodded. "I am fully aware of that, Captain. For your people this does not have any importance whatsoever at the moment, the worst case scenario being that your people for once get some un-deserved dirt on their faces. But I know that our... friend... does enjoy professional, and maybe even some personal respect from your side too."
Finally, the Captain nodded, reluctantly. Then he sighed in his turn. "To even consider your plea, I need to know everything you know about the incident." Mister Cowley gave him a quick smile, and reached for his transmitter. "Alpha One to base."
Sam was sizzling with frustration in his pyjamas. He was going through photos very carefully and meticulously, and the two agents waited as patiently as they only could. The photos were spread on the table and they were a mess, Sam couldn't tell one from the other, and he wanted to cry. He had never known so many men could look like Mad Max. He was so angry that he piled all the photos in one pile, and suddenly the one photo on top looked much clearer when the other faces didn't stare at him. So he started to go through the photos in pile, carefully tucking the previous under the others before having a look at the next one. He then put aside one photo, and continued with the rest. And finally, he returned to the one he had put aside, and gave it a good look, and another, and even tilted his head to make sure. Then he gave the pic to the dark-haired agent who sometimes looked a bit like Rock Hudson, and whose name he knew was Bodie. "He was there." Bodie looked at the photo and handed it to his partner who looked like that one guest in New Avengers. "You sure, Sam?" Sam felt Mister Bodie was sick with worry and Sam felt sorry for him. "I'm sure, Mister Bodie. And he had those two other men with him but they are not in these pics." And then, as Sam looked towards that car in his head again, he remembered. "One of the other men called the other, and he said a name..." Sam squeezed his eyes shut, trying to remember so very hard, harder than ever. Then the memory came to his mind, almost, and he looked desperately at the agent. "Mister Bodie, what's Fran-ken-stein's name?"
It was way past midnight, and the fat man enjoyed himself. Music was decent, food was all right, girls were pretty and the whisky excellent. And the thought of future wealthiness made everything feel sooooooooo much better still... ahh, these girls were nice, very much so, he started to idly wonder if he would take the blonde or the brunette with him, or both... ah this was life, and it would only become even better...
"Hello, darlings." A strange, drawling voice brought Alex back to reality and he opened his eyes. The girls were pulling away from him, as a blond-haired stranger calmly drew closer. And the stranger nonchalantly yanked the brunette away, and sat right beside him, putting his arm relaxedly across the back of the couch "Who the hell... I call... " Alex felt a hand caressing his neck, and suddenly that sensation filled him with horror, watching the smiling face of that crazy bastard. "Call whom, Alex? Your mother?"
There was nothing extraordinary about that man, he was maybe over 40, average height, quite average built, with a slightly wry smile on his face, but somehow Alex had the feeling he was facing a snarling Rottweiler ready to launch. "I'd like to meet 'er and give 'er a few tips about nutrition. You know, one look at you tells me you've got all too much fat and all too little excercise... Do you agree with me?" And Alex saw this stranger raising his eyebrows questioningly to someone behind him, and Alex felt the blonde girl dash away when someone bulkier took her place on his other side. "Ah, definitely." Alex felt a hand push his shoulder forward, and instinct told him that he'd better not turn to see the face. Instinct, and the slight yet distinct accent he instantly recognized. Alex started to sweat.
An arm stretched from behind and grabbed his glass before it fell from his trembling fingers. The glass was lifted against light and then vanished from his sight and he heard the man behind him sniff. "Whisky... I wonder if this is the blend your honoured chief prefers?" The blond-haired man shook his head. "Can't tell, whisky isn't my personal field of expertise, I'm more of a beer-man. But be my guest and taste, comrade. Alex won't mind, will you Alex?" Alex could only shake his head. "Alex here, he certainly knows, won't you think, comrade?" Alex swallowed. "Know... know what?" he finally got out of his mouth. The man in front of him snorted and patted his cheek. "Know the whisky-blend my chief prefers, Alex. Do we need to refresh your memory?" And the voice from behind joined in. "Scottish blend for a Scottish man, Alex menja." "For a very pissed off Scottish man, pal," the blond-haired bastard accompanied. "But hey, comrade, maybe Alex here has been wise enough to keep clear of such Scottish men. Have you, Alex?" The fat man nodded enthusiastically. "I... I have no idea who you're talking about." A finger from behind tickled Alex' neck and made him shiver. "That's good, my friend. You seem to have some problems with your heart, and in your condition, it is very good to keep clear of such men. You are someone who does his homework properly, aren't you, Alex? Then you would certainly know if you were involved in something that might upset such short-tempered men as my colleague's chief." Alex could only nod. "My respectable colleague here, he's not really in active field service, Alex. That also includes that he doesn't need to go through any anger management tests. So he may prove... unpleasant to anyone whom he gets angry with. And he tends to get angry with anyone who attacks his friends." Alex was visibly hyperventilating.
"But the comrade there behind you, Alex, he's very calm and placid as you see. It must have something to do with the fact that he has 6th dan's black belt in karate... oh and those ninja-skills, it's really interesting, Alex, did you know that it's actually possible to kill a person with two fingers? Terribly painful though, I give you that." And then the two monstrosities discussed different techniques and whether it would be more practical to crush the larynx or push the eye inside the skull. And the fat man between them wished he would wake up or pass out – quickly.
Then Alex heard a sigh from behind him. "It's astonishing how stupid some people can be. Can you believe it, Alex, some idiot decided to get himself easy money this afternoon." The man in front was shaking his head with a sad look on his face. "Oh, it was an alluring quarry, I give you that, an American lady from a wealthy family. But that stupid person, he hadn't done his homework." And the voice behind continued: "not as you would have done, Alex. Anyone who would have done his homework, would have learned soon that the lady was a friend and colleague of my tovaritsh here." The blond man shook his head again. "And had saved the life of this comrade of mine, and of his superior, when a group of lunatics attacked a meeting they participated." The voice behind coughed. "But think about it tovaritsh, as Alex here doesn't know about the whole incident, it really was a good thing they didn't send for example agent Doyle here to talk with poor Alex! I simply cannot understand how such a short-tempered and violent man ever got to pass the test to police-school. He's an excellent shot though, one of the best I've seen with a pistol. And a great boxer. Good thing he's tracking that man who was so aptly described, "hair like Mad Max but the colour of Ilya Kuryakin". Your Doyle is so extremely sensitive when it comes to that girlfriend of his best friend, and I would really like to see the outcome when he gets in his hands that Charlie Maggot." The blond man shook his head disapprovingly. "Raggot, comrade, Raggot. You're jumping into conclusions... Anyway, I'm glad the chief didn't send agent Bodie, I've never seen that man as mad as he was today. You know, it's fascinating how a person changes when rage and hate really take control, I bet he'd beat us both with whatever the weapon right now, when he snaps he simply bulldozes over you and leaves pulp behind. Believe me comrade, today is not a good day to face that ol' mercenary. I'm glad I'm not that Bulgarian, Boris Christoff..." The world was whirling in Alex' eyes.
"Oh Alex, Alex, you certainly have some serious medical issue. Are you sure you don't need some medication? I have something in my pocket, digitalis I think, and insuline." The voice behind did sound so helpful that Alex wanted to throw up. "No, no, I'll be fine..." The blond man's hand patted his cheek again. "That's good. Because it only now occurred to me, that things could be even worse for you." An arm stretched across Alex' shoulder and pulled him into some kind of half-embrace. "Oh yes Alex, things could be a lot worse... you see, the old man fiddled with the thought of coming here himself to meet you." The blond man chuckled. "Good thing he decided to stay behind, I mean good for YOU Alex. When the big man decides someone's guilty, he's so bloody stubborn he never changes his mind. And he had already decided you're somehow involved in kidnapping that girl. Who, by the way, took bullets for him a while ago, and after that the old man practically adopted her." Alex could barely breathe, he felt like his heart was breaking out of his chest. "What old man?" An exasperated sigh from behind and he felt a hand pinch his cheek. "Oh Alex, your bad heart influences your brain. The old Scot we were talking about, my colleague's revered chief." The blond man smiled brightly. "George Cowley, Alex. The head of CI5." And this time the world almost went black in Alex' eyes.
A soft voice whispered to his ear: "Now, Alex dear, we make a deal. We're leaving. You don't know anything about this issue, but in ten minutes the dark-haired man sitting in a blue Sierra, just outside the club's front door, gets in his hand a piece of paper with the address where that lady is kept, and the total number of men holding her there. Because if he doesn't get that paper in ten minutes after my friend here gets on his feet, we will come back." And again the blond man accompanied: "And if the adress is wrong, Bodie and Doyle will come." The voice hissed: "And if the lady has been harmed in any way... now, or in the future... well, you know who will come in that case." Alex felt a kiss being pressed on his hair. "Do svidánija, Alex. My condolences to pretty Diane." And the man vanished. The blond-haired monster waited for a moment longer before flashing a quick smile and calmly walking away.
And less than five minutes later agent Murphy radioed the address to HQ.
Behind the building, Macklin and Captain Komarov were smiling broadly at each other. "I must compliment your style, agent Macklin. That discussion of larynx versus eye proved quite impressive!" Macklin chuckled. "I seriously thought that the man would drop dead when you kissed him with those condolences. And that insuline-digitalis was damn ingenious!" The Soviet officer waved his hand. "Oh, don't mention it agent Macklin, I have to admit it was a most entertaining experience and I was fully enjoying myself. And the main thing was that Anna gets safe again. For an American she's a lovely lady, and a most efficient warrior." The officer's choice of words was peculiar, but Macklin admitted it be totally correct. "Well she's the only woman who ever has impressed me with her capacity – or with anything for that matter. She has taught me quite a few new tricks actually." He held out his hand and the two shook hands. "Good night, Captain. Thank you, we might not have found those Bulgarians if it wasn't for you, or learned their connection to that fat bastard." The Captain grimaced. "Oh please, don't remind me, Agent Macklin, their country is our ally and if their embassy or intelligence ever gets to know about my involvement, I'll be in trouble. But these were only greedy thugs, so I don't carry guilty conscience otherwise. Anyway, I have to say that your agency functioned most swiftly and efficiently. Give my regards to your Controller, I look forward to hearing how things turn out. And I do expect to get some Scottish Whisky at some convenient moment." The Captain raised his hand for a final greeting and disappeared into shadows, and Macklin headed towards HQ, still smiling. Not bad, that Russkie. Not bad at all.
And at the HQ George Cowley sighed with relief. Finally he was able to let loose Bodie, who had been raving the past two hours for not being let to charge at the nightclub to "talk" to Alex. He had needed to remind the younger man that there just MIGHT be some innocent civilians, so not everybody else but Anna should be shot at, and even now it would be very nice to have actually someone alive and capable to talk to afterwards. He had trusted Macklin and the Captain to be able to handle the thing at the nightclub efficiently and without drawing attention to themselves – although he had heard an ambulance had been called in 15 minutes after they had left. Oh well, heart-attacks can hit anywhere.
But now the Controller contendly pulled on himself a kevlar-vest, and joined his group. For the first time in ages, Macklin had insisted he wanted to come along. Jax, Murphy, Bodie, Doyle, Macklin, Fischer, himself... that should be enough. The core of CI5. "Lady and gentlemen, shall we?" In 15 minutes they were in place, in another 15 the surroundings had been secured, then... "Alpha One to 3.7. Your call, sonny." And that call was loud. And efficient.
"How did you find me so quickly, Bodie? I mean, I was knocked out the whole time and they didn't contact anyone yet, did they?" The morning sun shone into hospital room where drugged Anna had got to her senses during the small hours and was now preparing to get home. "Sam, the ret... round waiter you always smile at, happened to see you being pushed into a car. He thought something was wrong, searched Mr Cowley and could give a good description of those guys. And we got some help from under the red star to find out who they were. Get on your feet now, love! The old man is waiting with a decent breakfast and I'm hungry."
Bodie was helping Anna in to her jacket when she suddenly turned. "Bode... under the red star? D'you mean Captain Komarov? Were they involved?" The agent shook his head. "Nope, but the Captain helped us after Mr Cowley asked him to." Anna closed her eyes for a moment. "What... He asked help from him? He asked help from them? SOVIETS?" Bodie shrugged. "That bloody fool, didn't he understand what risk..." She lowered her gaze. "Oh yes he did, love. So keep this to yourself. For his sake, and for the Captain's sake." When she looked up again, there were tears in her eyes. "Damn that old... I don't know if I should give him a whack or kiss him." Bodie gave a laugh and put his arm around his girlfriend. "Which ever or both, hon, just do it in private. The Home Secretary would probably love to see a black eye on him though..." and they left.
Nina, thank you for editing - I did listen to you some, see? :-) I apologize for the rest, I'm a very stubborn non-English speaker.