Bodie locked the door of his flat carefully, and walked the few yards to where his car was parked. He climbed in, and set off to work. What would today bring, he wondered ? He hadn't gone any distance before his
car-phone sounded. It was his boss, Cowley, head of C.I. 5.
"Bodie", he said, "Do you know where Doyle is ?"
"On his way in, I imagine", replied Bodie. "We usually get in about the same time."
"I don't think so," said Cowley. "There's no response from his car-phone."
"Well, maybe he's at home, running late", suggested Bodie. "We were out a bit late last night."
"He's not answering there either", said Cowley, and Bodie responded to the slightly worried tone of his boss's voice.
"Do you want me to go and have a check ?", asked Bodie.
"Yes", said Cowley. "I'll send Murphy with a spare key."
Murphy was waiting when Bodie's car rolled into the yard outside his mate's flat. Doyle's car was still there, securely locked.
"I've tried the door-phone, no response", said Murphy.
"Let's try the back", said Bodie. The two men quickly climbed over the wall, and tried the back door. It was locked, and there was no sign of Doyle in the room inside. They used their key, and entered cautiously. The alarms sounded as they should have done, and Bodie dealt with them quickly.
"Doyle", shouted Bodie, in case his friend was upstairs in the bedroom area, though surely he would have responded to the alarms if he was, but there was no response.
They looked around. Everything looked completely normal. Last night's mug was up-turned on the draining board. The table was neatly set for breakfast. Books and magazines were tidily squared-up on the coffee table.
Bodie led the way upstairs, and then they began to make a few discoveries. A chair was over-turned, with clothes spilled onto the floor. The bed-covers were thrown back, and looked rumpled and untidy. That began to alarm Bodie. Doyle was a naturally tidy person, and would never have left things in that state.
He turned to Murphy. "Can you smell something ?," he asked.
"Yes", said Murphy, a frown on his face as he tried to identify what it was. Then it came to him. "I know. Chloroform !"
Bodie confirmed it. This was ominous ! What had happened here ? He immediately got through to Cowley, and reported his findings. Cowley listened to his report with his usual calm, and promised him a forensic team, as soon as they could get there.
While he waited, Bodie did some checking of his own. Knowing where the key was kept, he looked into the small cupboard in the living-room. Doyle's I.D. card, his radio, gun and holster were all neatly stowed away.
He went back upstairs and checked his friend's wardrobe too, - nothing was missing ! So whatever had happened, had occurred after Doyle had gone to bed last night.
The forensic team turned up then, and went through the whole flat with their exceptional, meticulous skills, but found nothing new of any help. They confirmed the presence of the smell of chloroform, and also, unusually, that of Asiatic spices, but little more.
House to house enquiries were made to discover whether anyone had seen or heard anything unusual. One important and significant fact did come to light.
There had been a sudden and unexplained power-cut in the small hours of the morning. Most of the local residents had slept through it, only realising that it had happened, when they found that various clocks, timers and appliances needed to be adjusted.
All the information there was, and it was precious little, was reported to Cowley, when he arrived on the scene
"Well, it explains how they avoided tripping the alarms," he said. "They only had to deal with the lock, not difficult."
The listening men nodded in agreement. Most of them could have done that.
Cowley stated the obvious, a conclusion that most of those present had already come to.
"It looks as if Doyle has been abducted," he said, "but has anyone any idea by whom and why.?"
No-one could give him an answer. But they would do their best to find one.
More local enquiries were put in hand, but the only other thing that came to light, was the discovery of the site where a very clever electrical engineer had caused the temporary power-cut. But he had done the job he'd been well paid for, and redressed the damage, without leaving any other clues.
Word spread quickly, and all the C.I.5 agents began to access their extensive information base of contacts and informants. This was usually such a wide-reaching system, that very little went on in London that went un-noticed, and many a whisper or rumour had been quickly followed up to a successful conclusion.
But this time, they were drawing blanks in all areas. It wasn't that anyone was with-holding information. Many small-time miscreants knew very well the value of co-operating with C.I.5 men, and also the likely penalties if they didn't.
C.I.5 was both feared and respected by those in London's dubious crime underworld.!
But still nothing came to light anywhere.
At first, Cowley had not been unduly concerned. He had every confidence in Doyle, who was extremely quick-witted and resourceful. If he had been caught unawares and over-whelmed, as the smell of chloroform suggested, as soon as he recovered, he would be very busy contriving some way out of his predicament.
Cowley was, in fact, hourly expecting a call from the police to say he'd turned up somewhere, or from Doyle himself, asking to be picked up from some remote spot. But as time went on, he began to be more concerned.
It was unusual for no information at all to surface.!
Agents moved in and out of Headquarters, looking concerned and pre-occupied, and the phones never stopped ringing, but only with negative results. People were beginning to worry.
Bodie and Doyle were popular and respected. They made an excellent team, and were greatly valued. If something serious had happened to spoil that, it would be a great loss to the whole organization
Bodie was getting tense and tight lipped. He was working all the hours there were, and already Cowley had had to order him off duty, sending him home to eat, and to get some rest.
The same un-answered questions were on most people's minds. 'What had happened to Doyle ?" 'Where was he ?" And the one they didn't like to put into words. 'Was he still alive ?"
If they had but known it, the truth was so weird that it was beyond their wildest imaginings.
Doyle had been abducted, silently and skilfully, as part of a well-planned scheme. He was to become the focal point of a cruel, but potentially-lucrative scam, which was well concealed by the utmost secrecy.
The questions people were asking, he couldn't answer either ! He didn't know what had happened. He didn't know where he was. And, most important of all, he didn't know who he was.!
The two unscrupulous Asian business men, who had watched him for some while, and carefully planned his abduction, had chosen him entirely for his appearance, which was a vital part of their devious plan. But what they wanted was a docile, tractable figure-head, and this they had achieved with the use of various drugs, some well-known to the medical world, and others of obscure Eastern origin, but very effective !
They now had an obedient, mindless man, in an almost catatonic state, who did exactly as he was told. If they said 'sit', he sat down. If they said 'stand', he stood. He ate and slept when they told him to. He wore the clothes they provided for him, and submitted meekly to the elaborate cosmetic attentions they used on him.
He performed on stage exactly as they ordered, and already the rich pickings, the object of the scheme, were pouring in.
The people they were duping were all sworn to utmost secrecy, so there was no danger of being discovered by outsiders. The cunning perpetrators of this clever scheme were doing very well, and were delighted with their success.
So all C.I 5's relentless searches for information came to nothing. Also not realised, were Cowley's hopes that Doyle's resourcefulness would bring a result.
The atmosphere at Headquarters was quiet and restrained. The kind of work that the organization undertook meant that they did lose men from time to time. But usually the exact circumstances of each event were known. The men were regretted, accorded the honours they were due, as men lost in the course of duty, and the work went on.
But this case was different. No-one knew what had happened. No-one could be sure whether Doyle was alive or dead.
Cowley gave no hint of his feelings in the matter, he never did. But everyone knew he had valued the Bodie / Doyle partnership very highly.
Bodie, of course, was particularly distraught. He went about the work he was assigned to, with grimness and silent determination, which had everyone working with him treading very carefully. He replied politely, if somewhat tersely, when he was spoken to, but didn't engage in idle conversation with anyone, and his customary cocky manner had entirely disappeared.
He had completely stopped socializing. His many erstwhile lady-friends waited in vain for the cheeky phone-call inviting them to a good night out.
His off-duty time, when he could be persuaded, or ordered, to take it, was spent either in reading and re-reading the multitude of negative reports, or in visiting various dodgy meeting-places, and leaning, sometimes quite heavily, on some of the dubious regulars there. But it was all to no avail ! Nothing came to light anywhere, and as the days wore on, the outlook became bleaker and less hopeful.
The breakthrough, when it did come, was from a very unusual source !
Murphy, one of Cowley's best men on the administrative side, was paying a duty visit to his elderly uncle, a Professor Devereaux.
Professor Devereaux had been a life-time lecturer at London University, teaching a great many students Theosophy and Religious History.
He had been retired for years now, as he was in his early eighties. A bachelor all his life, he now lived in a comfortable old house in the suburbs of London, well looked after by a kindly and competent house-keeper.
Used to a life of study, he continued to work, investigating a wide variety of sects and cults, off-shoots of all the major religions of the world. It had become almost an obsession with him; he thought and talked of little else.
Murphy, if he was honest, found his regular visits a little boring, but he owed a real debt of gratitude to the old man, who, in spite of his busy academic life, had found time to befriend a rather shy, lonely boy, whose parents were frequently away overseas on consular duties. So he dutifully visited his uncle regularly, and did his best to show a real interest in whatever his latest discovery was about.
After a very pleasant meal, accompanied by a splendid wine, Murphy followed the Professor back to the book-lined study, ready and willing to give his full attention (or at least pretend to) to what the old man was anxious to talk about this time.
"Well, sir", he said, as he settled comfortably into one of the big leather chairs that furnished the old-fashioned study, "What have you been working on this month ?"
"I've been looking at some minor cults", said the Professor. " I've been investigating some of the tiny sects that are off-shoots of Hinduism or Buddhism,
and there are dozens of them, too," he added, excitement and eagerness to elucidate evident in his voice. Murphy responded to the old man's mood.
"Tell me about some of them", he said. The old man began to talk, and reeled off details of several odd groups.
"Then, there's this one," he said." I think it's interesting, though there's a lot of secrecy about it. He handed his nephew a folder with several pictures in it, accompanied by pages of text in his neat hand-writing.
Murphy scanned the pictures idly, trying to show real interest to please his uncle.
"Hm", he said. " A god and goddess, and some attendants."
"Yes", said the Professor. "The god is Tarim, with his wife, Sisula, and there are four helpers, Lemisha for art and music, Sherima for Nature, plants and animals. Vartol is the warrior-protector, and the messenger to the gods and link to the followers is Akalan.
Murphy turned the pictures over one by one; they were like dozens he had seen before. But as he came to the last one, Akalan, the messenger, he almost gasped out loud.!
Although it was not a photograph obviously, but only a coloured print, the resemblance was there ! The high cheek-bones, the clear eyes, the straight dark eyebrows, the well-shaped mouth, but most of all the bush of dark curly hair.
Akalan looked exactly like Ray Doyle !
As Murphy gazed at the image in shock, the strangest idea came into his head.
What if ?
He tried to push it away, but it wouldn't go, and grew and expanded rapidly. He desperately needed to express it to someone, but not his uncle, not yet ! Who ? Bodie ? No, he would go off half-cocked and do something foolish. No, it had to be Cowley, and soon !
As soon as was politely possible, he took leave of the Professor and left. He shot straight into Headquarters, and sought out the man on night duty.
"Where's Mr. Cowley ?", he demanded anxiously.
"I'm not sure," answered the man. He left early because he was going to a meeting. But whether that's over yet, I don't know." He consulted his watch.
"It's getting late," he said, " He's probably at home now. Is it urgent ?"
Murphy looked at the time, 10 minutes to midnight ! Cowley was often into work early, so he'd probably retired to bed by now. He wouldn't appreciate being woken up, especially for such a hare-brained idea, such as the one Murphy was considering.
The more he thought about it, the more Murphy began to have doubts. It was a mad idea, wasn't it ? And yet, the picture he had looked at wouldn't leave his mind's eye.
He went home and went to bed, but he didn't sleep very well. Round about 5-30 am, he suddenly made up his mind. He would go in early too, and tell Cowley the whole story. If his boss dismissed it, and called him a fool, he'd have to accept that, but he had to tell someone.
Fortified by his determination, he was in early, though he learned from the duty officer that Cowley had been even earlier. Full of doubts, and very unsure of what his reception would be, he tapped on his boss's office door.
"Come in," called Cowley, and was very surprised to see who his early caller was. But he valued and respected Murphy, so he welcomed him.
"Do you want to see me about something, Murphy ?" he asked, and his tone was friendly.
"Yes, sir", said Murphy, sitting down as requested, and facing his boss across the desk.
Taking a deep breath, he poured out the whole story, explaining about his uncle and his particular interests, most of which Cowley already knew about, and finished by describing the most important fact, - the picture of Akalan !
Cowley listened impassively, mentally weighing the madness of the yet unspoken idea, against the steadiness and reliability of the man facing him.
Murphy finished his tale, and sat quietly, waiting for whatever response would come. Cowley was very silent for some time. Then suddenly he said,
"Would your uncle be in if we went to see him ? Would he let me see the picture ?"
Relieved that he hadn't been dismissed out of hand, Murphy responded eagerly. "I'm quite sure he would, sir"
"Well," said Cowley "We can't very well disturb him this early. Will you ring and make an appointment for say, 9 or 9.30. I'll get some work done first, and then we'll go"
It was all arranged, and before long the Professor's housekeeper was showing them into his study. Although he never discussed it with his nephew, the old man knew very well what C.I.5 was, what Murphy did, who Cowley was, and he greeted him affably.
"You're very welcome, sir", said the Professor "But what is it all about ? I'm very curious as to what brings you to me."
Murphy, meanwhile, had shot across to the desk, and was searching for the relevant folder.
"It's this," said Murphy eagerly, and, laying the picture on the desk, he fished in his pocket, brought out a photo of Doyle, and laid it alongside it.
The three men stared at the pictures. The Professor was the first to break the silence.
"Goodness me, what a resemblance !", he exclaimed.
Cowley turned a thoughtful look towards Murphy.
"I see what you mean," he said. "It wouldn't take much for Doyle to look exactly like this ….."
"Akalan, the messenger," supplied the Professor.
"But why,?" exclaimed Cowley. "To what end ?"
"I might have an idea on that," said the Professor, totally alert and interested.
"This sect ," he explained, " is widespread all over India, in small secretive groups, from all walks of life."
"And," prompted Cowley, and the old man continued.
"But here, in this country, there are only a couple of groups, and, this is the important bit, here they are comprised of the most successful Indian businessmen."
"How is that important ?" asked Murphy, not yet understanding the professor's line of thought.
"Well," explained his uncle. "If a messenger from the gods visits, and will then return to his masters, members of the sect would want him to take back the very best report, to please the gods, and gain their favour. And how will they achieve that ? By giving him -"
The two C.I.5 men answered in chorus.
"Gifts !", said Cowley. "Offerings !," said Murphy.
"Exactly !" said the professor, " and as these are very wealthy men, the offerings will be lavish, money, gold and silver, precious gems, anything of value."
"And rich pickings for anyone organizing an elaborate deception," said Cowley, thoughtfully.
Murphy protested "But Doyle wouldn't go along with that !" he said.
"He could have been forced in some way," suggested his uncle.
"Aye," said Cowley, and explained to the professor how Doyle appeared to have been forcibly abducted, and hadn't been traced since.
The three men, all with very active minds, considered the possible scenario that had been suggested by the professor's knowledgeable comments.
"It's certainly well worth some investigation," said Cowley. "Where do we find these groups?"
"Ah, there's the rub," said the professor, "I don't know! I think one's up in the Midlands, and the other is somewhere in the Home Counties, but that's as much as I can tell you. As I said, they are shrouded in secrecy."
Cowley thanked the professor again for his information, and he and Murphy hurried back to Headquarters to start making enquiries.
But they weren't having any more success than before. Backed by wealth, the sect's code of silence was unbreakable, and very secure. Both men were getting very frustrated as every slight lead came up against a brick wall.
Then the phone-desk put through a call to Murphy. It was his uncle.
"I've had an idea," the old man said. "Safra, one of my students, let something slip, when we were learning about the sect's deities. He said he had a distant cousin, who belonged to the sect somewhere not too far from London, but he clammed up when I enquired further." He paused, then added,
"But perhaps you can get him to say more. He's working here today, so if you come round I can help you, - I'll convince him to trust you."
Cowley and Murphy made good time to the professor's house, and he quickly introduced them to Safra, a young Indian student, one of a group working there, improving their studies by tapping into the wealth of information, freely offered by their enthusiastic host.
But when he heard the subject of their interest, he immediately went silent, and declared he knew nothing.
Annoyed at further frustration, Cowley was in a mood to be forceful, but the shrewd old man intervened.
"Listen to me, Safra," he said, "It's very important."
He told the young man the whole story, and showed him the pictures, explaining to him their theory that a nasty deception was going on.
"So, you see, Safra," he said persuasively, "If this is true, your relative and his friends are being robbed by criminals. Don't you think they should be warned ?"
The young Indian studied the pictures. He looked shaken, and very thoughtful, but still he said nothing.
Suddenly, Murphy had an idea. He slid into a chair beside the troubled young man.
"Safra," he said, "This relative of yours, - He's a business man with an office in the City ?" The young man nodded. Murphy slid a slip of paper in front of him, and said, "Now, if that information were suddenly to appear, no-one would ever know how. Then it would be up to us to convince him of our story, and you would not be involved."
The young student gazed at Murphy, and was won over by his gentle charm. He scribbled a few words quickly, then jumped up and almost ran from the room.
Cowley picked up the slip of paper, and prepared to leave.
"Please let me come with you," asked the professor. "I am well known in the Indian community, and, I think, respected, because of the students I help and sponsor. He may well listen to me."
Cowley considered for a moment and then agreed. The trio set off for the City, to the address given them. They entered the well-appointed office. Cowley asked to speak to Mr. Assiv. The receptionist looked doubtful.
"He's very busy," she said "Without an appointment ….."
Murphy's uncle stepped forward.
"Ask Mr. Assiv," he said, "if he will spare a few minutes for Professor Devereaux."
The girl flicked a connection, and spoke several words in her own language, including the Professor's name. The result was immediate ! The door to the inner office flew open, and a distinguished-looking Indian gentleman hurried out, hands together in greeting.
"Professor Devereaux," he said, in a most welcoming manner "An honour, sir. How may I serve you ?".
"We need to speak with you privately," said the professor. "It is very important."
Mr Assiv ushered them all into his office, and pulled forward chairs for them. Cowley introduced himself, and was met with a most surprised look.
"Mr Cowley," acknowledged Mr Assiv, "I know of you, of course, but what can you want from me ?"
The professor had been carrying his folder with him. He took out the picture of Akalan, and laid it on the desk. The effect was electric !
Mr Assiv fell back in his chair. He had paled visibly, and looked very shaken.
"How did you know ?," he gasped.
Quick on the uptake, the professor said, "So, it is true. Akalan has come to visit you ?" The man slumped in the chair, nodded dumbly.
"Please listen to Mr. Cowley," said the clever old man. "It is vital that you do."
Cowley produced the picture of Doyle, and laid it on the desk beside that of Akalan. Mr. Assiv stared in disbelief, but he listened attentively as Cowley told his story, and outlined their theory that a very devious deception was going on, intended to rob the sect of everything possible.
As Cowley spoke quietly, suggesting what was really happening, Mr. Assiv's attitude changed. His first shock had gone, to be replaced by the gradual realisation that this story could be true, and finally by extreme anger. With a tremendous effort, he composed himself, and rose to his feet, once more a dignified businessman.
"Gentlemen," he said calmly, "I thank you for the information you have brought to me. We will deal with the matter." He moved round the desk, evidently intent on showing his visitors out.
"Hang on a minute," said Cowley, startled by the change of attitude. "That's not the end of it. We want our man back."
"If we find out that what you have suggested is true," said Mr. Assiv firmly. "We will deal with it, and he is part of it."
"Not willingly," protested Murphy, " Doyle wouldn't."
"Mr. Assiv," said the professor, in his quiet calm manner, "Please consider ! This man was forcibly taken from his home, because of his appearance, we think. Mr. Cowley is not in the least interested in what action you take, but he wants his man back, because he knows him, and knows he's been forced into this somehow."
"Just tell me where to find him," said Cowley eagerly. "Nothing else !"
"There is no way I will reveal our meeting-place," said firmly.
"Can I make a suggestion," said Murphy, who'd been doing some fast thinking. "Suppose you took one man there. You could blindfold him, anything so he doesn't know where he's going, and let him bring Doyle out the same way"
"A good idea," said Cowley, "if you let us get him away, before you reveal all to your members, I promise you you'll hear no more from us, whatever you decide to do about those really responsible."
Mr. Assiv looked from one man to the other doubtfully, and then towards Professor Devereaux.
"What do you think, sir,?" he asked.
"I think you should agree," said the professor. "I think this man is an innocent pawn. You can trust Mr. Cowley ! Let him rescue his man, and no word of any kind will ever leak out about this evil thing that has been done to your sect. None of us will ever speak one word about it. You have my word, too"
still looked doubtful, as he thought about it. Then at last he made up his mind.
"One man ? Alone ? No guns !"
"Yes," agreed Cowley, "and you may take any precautions you see fit, to preserve secrecy."
"May I have a phone number to contact you when I am ready," asked Assiv, and Cowley complied readily.
The three men left, and returned to the car. Cowley drove the professor back to his home, and thanked him for his invaluable help.
"You will allow Murphy to tell me the outcome ?," asked the professor.
"I think you can trust me."
"I know I can ," said Cowley, who had become quite impressed by the shrewd old gentleman.
As they drove back towards Headquarters, Murphy asked, "Do you want me to be the one to go, sir ?"
"No," replied Cowley, "I think you've done your bit. No, this job belongs to one man, I think."
"Bodie, of course," said Murphy. "He'll jump at the chance, too."
As soon as he reached his office, Cowley sent out a call for Bodie. He was there in less than 10 minutes.
Together he and Murphy told him the whole story, and showed him the pictures. He was totally amazed, and couldn't stop staring at the images and comparing them.
"When do I go, sir,?" he said eagerly. He'd almost given up hope of ever seeing his mate again, but now his enthusiasm was back in full measure.
"We have to wait for a call from ," explained Cowley. "I hope it won't be too long. But, remember, secrecy is a vital part of this, so not a word to anyone."
Bodie had a great urge to rush out and tell everyone that they might have found Doyle after all, but he controlled it, and tried to wait patiently for the call to be made.
It was late afternoon before the call finally came. Mr. Assiv spoke to Cowley.
"Are you ready," he asked.
"Yes," answered Cowley, "I'm sending a man called Bodie."
"Alone ?" interrupted Assiv.
"Of course," said Cowley, "You have my word. He'll do whatever you ask."
"There's a small memorial garden, next to St. Matthews Church in Islington. Can your man be there in one hour ?," said Assiv.
The caller rang off. Cowley quickly relayed the instructions to Bodie.
"Do you know where that is ?" he asked.
"I know where the church is," replied Bodie, "so I'll find the garden too."
"Take care," said Cowley, "and remember, Doyle's safety depends on you doing exactly as they ask."
Bodie found the church easily, and wandered round the back of it until he located the memorial garden. He stood looking about him in the gathering dusk, but even his alert ears did not hear the approach of the small figure in Eastern dress, who suddenly appeared beside him.
"I am Ahmed," the man whispered. "Please stand still." Obediently Bodie remained stationary, while the little man ran an instrument over him, which Bodie immediately recognised as a 'bug detector'
Satisfied, the little man turned away.
"Come," he said, and Bodie followed obediently. Ahmed led him to a dark van, parked discretely in a side lane. Bodie went to climb into the passenger seat, but Ahmed said "No !". He opened the back doors of the van.
Bodie obliged and climbed in, finding only a bench along one wall, with a handrail to hold on to. Ahmed shut the doors, and Bodie heard him lock them.
That was the last thing Bodie heard, for as he felt the van move off, he realised he could hear nothing else. The van was very efficiently sound-proofed in some way.
The luminous hands on his watch told him that they had driven for an hour and 20 minutes, before the van came to a halt, so he deduced that they were well out of central London, but as he had no idea in which direction they had gone, he didn't even bother trying to guess where they were. He didn't want to know anyway.
Ahmed unlocked the van doors, and Bodie climbed out. They were parked bang up against a doorway, so close that, as Ahmed led him stealthily through the door, he couldn't even gain an impression of what the whole building was like.
The little man crept up some narrow, dark stairs, and Bodie followed. They must have gone up several storeys before the man stopped and led him into a tiny attic room. He opened a small panel in the wall, and motioned to Bodie to look through. He did so, and stared in total astonishment at the scene before him!
He was looking, from the side and above, towards a small stage. It was furnished only with a long table, covered with a dark cloth, and a large, throne-like chair.
But it was the figure in front of the chair, that caught and held Bodie's attention ! It was Ray Doyle ! Bodie knew instantly that it was Doyle, for he knew him so well, but what a transformation !
It was the picture he'd seen, of Akalan, brought to life !
The figure before him wore a ground length skirt of electric blue satin, ornamented with gold braid. He had a wide shoulder collar in the same colours, sort of Egyptian style. Gold bracelets adorned his muscular arms. There were gold lines emphasising the high cheek-bones, and a mystic symbol in gold adorned his forehead. But the most striking feature was his hair !
Doyle's hair had been at its shaggiest when he was abducted, as he hadn't found time for a long overdue haircut. Now it had been brushed out to its fullest, and the tips sprayed and stiffened with a copper-coloured paint, so that it stood out round his head like a great bronze halo !
He looked very strange, but totally magnificent !
Bodie glanced to his left, becoming aware that the small hall below was occupied. Twenty or more Indian ladies and gentlemen were there ; the ladies in colourful saris, the men, some in Indian dress , some in business suits, but all very composed and dignified.
As he watched, a man in Indian dress came onto the stage, and spoke to the audience. Then, in turn, people came forward to the front of the stage, bowed reverently to the imposing figure of Akalan, and proffered their gifts.
"That's Jared," whispered Ahmed, " He runs everything."
Jared received the gifts one by one, showed them to Akalan, who, palms placed flat together, inclined his head and acknowledged them. Jared then placed the offerings on the long table at the side of the stage. Bodie watched the whole performance, totally entranced by the spectacle.
Ahmed pulled him back from the opening, and whispered in his ear.
"You'll get your chance in a few minutes," he said. "The curtains will close. Jared will gather up the gifts and take them away to lock up somewhere. Then he'll come back and take Akalan back to his room. For just a few minutes he'll be there alone, - that's your chance ! I'll get you down to the other side of the stage, and then guide you a quick way back to the van."
Ahmed closed the viewing-panel, and led Bodie by various narrow corridors and stairways till they reached, as he had said, the side of the stage opposite to where Jared had entered, and then they waited.
At last Jared stepped forward, and spoke a few words to the people before him. Akalan made a final 'salaam' as if in blessing, and the heavy curtains were drawn across the front of the stage. Jared quickly gathered up the items from the table and went off. Akalan remained standing in front of his chair.
Bodie took his chance. He shot on to the stage and dashed up to his friend.
"Come on, mate," he said, "I've come to get you out of here."
But to his total surprise, there was no response ! The eyes that met his were totally blank, devoid of any sign of recognition, devoid, indeed, of any re-action at all.
Bodie grabbed at the nearest bare arm, and tried to pull his friend towards the exit, but met with stolid resistance. Akalan wasn't programmed to move for anyone except Jared.
Knowing time was of the essence, for Jared would soon be back, Bodie acted swiftly. A swift and accurate knock-out blow made the elegant figure collapse and subside limply on to the throne-like chair behind him.
Quickly Bodie grabbed the dark cloth from the offerings table, wrapped it firmly round the limp form, heaved the bundle over his shoulder, and followed an agitated Ahmed, waiting in the wings.
True to his word, Ahmed only took moments to lead him to the van. Bodie heaved his burden inside, and climbed in beside it. Ahmed locked the doors, shot into the driving seat and was off.
The journey seemed endless to Bodie, for it was dark inside the van, and he couldn't really tell how his friend was. He felt him stir after a while, and sensed he was conscious again, but although he touched him and called his name, he could get no response at all.
At last the van came to a halt. Ahmed came round and unlocked the doors.
"We part company now, sahib," he said, as he helped the two men from the van. He slipped away very quickly and silently, and the van shot off.
Bodie was left supporting the cloth-wrapped figure, who just stood where he was, staring blankly into the night. Bodie checked he had his car-keys ready, then used all his strength to force the resisting figure beside him back through the memorial garden, and on to where his car was still safely parked. He opened the passenger door, forced his mate into the front seat, re-locked the door, shot round to the driver's side and climbed in. The figure beside him sat gazing blankly in front of him. Bodie grabbed his shoulder and shook him roughly.
"For goodness sake, snap out of it, Ray," he yelled, but once again got no response whatever.
Bodie was in a bit of a quandary. He needed help from somewhere, but there was still the secrecy issue to be dealt with. He couldn't very well take Doyle back to Headquarters in this state. Then suddenly he had an idea.
Dr. Fenton at St. Richards Hospital ! He had treated Ray several times, and he was a man who could be trusted.
Starting up the car, he drove swiftly back towards the centre of London. As soon as he came close to his planned destination, he pulled into convenient lay-by, thankful that it was late, and there were few people about to be curious.
He activated his phone and got a call put through to the hospital. Fortunately Dr. Fenton was still there, on stand-by duty, and soon came to answer him.
"Dr. Fenton," said Bodie in an urgent tone, "I've got Ray here. He needs help, but I've got to get him to you secretly, - no-one else must see him ! I'll explain later"
Dr. Fenton was a clever, alert man, and knew well the kind of work these special men did. Responding to the note of desperation in Bodie's voice, he didn't stop to ask unnecessary delaying questions.
"Where are you,?" he asked calmly, thinking fast about the request.
"About 5 minutes away from you," replied Bodie.
"Right," said Fenton. "Come round the back to the loading yard, there's no-one there at this time of night. About 10 yards left of the big loading-bay doors, there's a single blue door. Park by that and I'll meet you there."
Bodie did as Fenton had said, his almost panic calmed by the doctor's steady words. As he pulled to a halt, he found that, true to his word, Fenton was already there, opening the door and pushing out a stretcher-trolley, with several
blankets on it.
He joined Bodie as he jumped out and unlocked the passenger door, and helped him manoeuvre Doyle out and onto the trolley. It was too dark for him to fully notice Doyle's hair, but he was a little surprised when Bodie pulled the covers right up over his mate's head. However he made no comment.
Bodie had promised to explain later, and he'd wait for that.
He led them quickly through deserted corridors and by a roundabout route, until he reached his own large consulting room. Remembering Bodie's plea for secrecy, he turned to lock the door behind them.
As he turned back, he gasped out loud. Bodie had moved the blankets, and Doyle alias Akalan was revealed in all his glory. He came closer to stare.
"Good grief," he exclaimed, "Have you come from a fancy-dress party ?"
"No," said Bodie wearily, sinking into a nearby chair. He proceeded to tell Fenton the whole story. The clever doctor listened intently without any interruption. Bodie finished his tale by saying wearily, "But I can't get any response from him."
Fenton had already noted, that although his patient seemed fully conscious, his expression was totally blank and uncomprehending He looked for, and found several small puncture wounds in Doyle's elbow joint area.
"He's heavily drugged, that's why," he said. He went to his desk and took out some equipment.
"I'll take some blood and send it for a tox. screen, to see what he's been given," he said. Quickly and efficiently he drew a blood sample from Doyle's unresisting arm. As he labelled it, he added "I'm going to take this up to the path. lab myself, and I'll make sure they do the fastest job possible. Lock the door behind me. I'll knock when I come back."
He shot off, and Bodie locked up behind him. He felt better now that Fenton was dealing with the situation. He took the opportunity while he waited to call Headquarters.
Cowley had not gone home, and was evidently waiting for his call. He explained exactly what had happened, and that he was now at St. Richard's with Dr. Fenton.
"I'll come over," said Cowley, and rang off.
A tap on the door announced the doctor's return, and Bodie let him in.
"They'll do it as quick as they can," he announced, "but it'll still take a while."
He looked at the tired, worried man before him, still slumped in his chair, and decided a little action would help.
"Come on, Bodie," he said cheerfully, "let's get him out of this ridiculous costume."
Glad to be doing something, Bodie jumped up eagerly to help. They quickly found that the gold paint used to adorn Doyle's face and body, was only water-based, and so washed off easily, as did the slight colorant used to darken his skin. They removed the elaborate skirt and shoulder cape, replacing it with pyjamas from the doctor's emergency cupboard. Fenton went to the equipment cabinet, and fished out a couple of pairs of scissors. He handed one pair to Bodie.
"I don't think your mate deserves a halo," he joked. "Let's get rid of it."
Together they snipped carefully at the stiffened, painted points. As they removed them, Doyle's hair sprang back to its usual tight curls, and by the time they had finished, he looked more like himself again, apart from the totally blank look on his face.
There was a tap at the door. Fenton went to answer it. It was Cowley, so he let him in and locked the door again. Fenton, having seen Doyle as he was when Bodie had brought him in, well understood the need for secrecy.
Cowley moved over to look at Doyle. He turned to the doctor.
"What's the matter with him ?," he asked.
"He's drugged up to the eyeballs," replied Fenton. "Probably stuff to make him totally compliant. I don't know exactly what yet. I've sent off a blood sample to try to find out, but that can't be done in a hurry."
Cowley nodded. He'd got to know Fenton quite well, and trusted him utterly, but he had to say it.
"You know this must be kept totally secret !" he said firmly.
"Of course," replied Fenton. "Bodie filled me in, and I understand completely. But what an amazing affair ! You should have seen how he looked when Bodie brought him in, - quite staggering ! I wish I'd thought to take a photo."
"Best not," said Cowley, looking at the eye-catching clothes Fenton was showing him, and we must destroy all the evidence."
"I'll see to that personally," said Fenton, stuffing the electric blue garments into a bag, and tipping the painted contents of his waste bin in after them. "I'll put them in the incinerator myself, trust me."
"Good man," said Cowley, "but what about Doyle ? Can you help him ?"
"That's going to be a bit of a problem," said Fenton. "I've got to wait for the toxic report. There are some drugs I could treat easily, but I suspect he's had some of the more obscure Asian ones, ones I've heard of, but have never dealt with. If that's true, it's going to have to be 'cold turkey', total abstinence, and that can be very unpleasant. In his favour, he wasn't a 'user' before, so that'll help, but I'll have to get him into a clinic somewhere."
Cowley and Bodie exchange worried looks. This wasn't good news !
"I could treat him myself," said Fenton, "and indeed I'd really like to. I know two excellent nurses who would help me too, but we just haven't the right facilities here."
"Facilities ?" queried Cowley. "What would you need ?"
"Secure, sound-proof accommodation, for as long as it takes," replied the doctor.
"I can give you that !," said Cowley.
"You can ! How ?," exclaimed the doctor eagerly.
"In the Interrogation Centre," replied Cowley. "In the basement there are several rooms that are both sound-proof and secure."
"Could a couple be made habitable ?" asked Fenton, " for the patient and two nurses."
"I don't see why not," said Cowley in a determined tone, and went off to see what he could arrange, leaving Bodie to stand guard over Doyle.
Dr. Fenton made a few phone calls himself, presumably to locate the two nurses he'd mentioned
Bodie dozed in his chair. He'd been on duty a long time, under a great deal of stress, but the need for secrecy meant that it would be better not to bring in a relief man.
Cowley got results very quickly. Two rooms in the furthest corner of the lower basement were rapidly furnished with beds, tables and chairs, and basic toilet facilities. Everything was simple, strong and bolted to the floor. Fenton had warned them that patients could suffer delirium, and become very violent, as the treatment went on.
When all was ready, the surreptitious transfer of the patient into them was arranged. The two nurses arrived.
They were a surprise, for they turned out to be two males, named Dai and Gareth, who looked for all the world like burly, night-club bouncers, but whose soft Welsh voices when speaking, showed a surprising, gentle calm.
Tucked away in a secluded corner of the Centre, the project went ahead quietly, arousing no suspicion. Nobody really noticed the regular deliveries, supplying meals to the inmates, or the occasional furtive visits of Dr. Fenton.
The usual comings and goings went on as normal, as agents brought in suspects to be interrogated, but the building was so large that few knew how extensive the space was at the lower levels.
Cowley and Bodie were advised by Dr. Fenton to stay away, to avoid attracting notice.
"After all," said the doctor, "You can do nothing to help Dai and Gareth, - they know exactly what they're doing. I'll give you regular updates, but not there".
No-one else knew what was going on. Nothing had been allowed to leak out at Headquarters. As far as most people knew, Doyle was still missing. Bodie and Murphy found it very hard to suppress their new feelings of hope, but stuck to it for Doyle's sake.
Cowley had spoken to Mr. Assiv only once more, to make sure that the Indian gentleman accepted that Doyle had been an innocent pawn, and to get his guarantee that there would be no recriminatory action against him. He assured Mr. Assiv that he hadn't the slightest interest in what they did about Jared and his co-conspirator, and that not a word of the deception would leak from C.I.5.
And both sides kept their word. Nothing leaked to the Press, and the few who knew the truth did not talk about it to any others.
Bodie found it very hard to keep quiet, not about what had happened, - that was easy. But he found it harder to conceal his excitement at the hope that soon his mate would be better, and they would be a team again.
He and Cowley were getting regular reports from Fenton, who told them that dealing with the drugs he recognised had been easy, but that handling the total abstinence from some of the others had been very difficult. Reluctantly, he reported that Doyle had suffered from severe delirium, and had got quite violent, but that the safety measures, and the strength of the two nurses, had helped them to cope, and that that stage was gradually passing.
Then came the day everyone had been waiting for. !
Dai was sitting at the table eating his breakfast alone, for his patient was still asleep, and his partner Gareth, whom he had just relieved, had retired to the other room to catch up on his rest.
Suddenly, he had the feeling he was being watched. He looked towards the door, wondering if Gareth had roused for some reason, then turned his eyes to the bed across the room.
Two eyes, clear and bright, were looking at him steadily, and with curiosity. The figure on the bed swung his legs over the side and sat up.
"Hullo," he said, "Who are you ?"
"My name is Dai," he replied gently, "and who are you ?"
"Ray Doyle", came the un-hesitating reply, as his patient's gaze ranged round the sparse room, trying to make sense of his surroundings.
Dai got quickly to his feet and summoned his partner.
"Gareth, come in here," he called. The other man appeared in the doorway, and smiled widely at what he was seeing. Success at last !
Soon all three men were seated round the table, demolishing cereal, and toast and marmalade, while two gentle Welsh voices explained to their
erst-while patient exactly what had been going on. Doyle listened intently to the story, thinking how weird a tale it was, trying, and failing, to recall something of the weeks he had lost out of his life.
"What do we do now ?" he demanded.
"Well, to begin with," said Dai gently, "There are some clothes for you in the cupboard, so you can get dressed if you like."
"Great," said Doyle, and went to look. Dai and Gareth watched him carefully, checking for themselves that Doyle was as back to normal as he seemed to be, and finding no cause for any doubts.
"Dr. Fenton will be here in half-an-hour," said Gareth, checking his watch, and I guess we'll all be leaving then, so let's tidy up a bit."
The doctor used his key to let himself in, and gazed in delight at what he saw. The room was neat and tidy. But, more importantly, the three faces that turned to greet him were equally alert. He moved forward to grab Doyle's hand, and shook it firmly.
"Hurrah," he said, beaming all over his cheerful face. "You're back with us, Ray, old son ! About time, too."
Doyle expressed grateful thanks all round, having learned how hard they had all worked to bring about his recovery.
Gareth and Dai had packed their bags, and were preparing to leave. Doyle thanked them again profusely.
"We are very glad we were successful," said Dai in his soft voice, and Gareth added, "But now our work here is done, and we are needed elsewhere."
After they had gone, Fenton reached in his pocket for the 'pager' he always carried.
I'd better give Cowley a call", he said.
A spark of mischief lit Doyle's eyes.
"Couldn't we just drop in, and surprise him," he begged. "It would be fun."
"Well," said Fenton doubtfully. Then he made up his mind. "I'd like to see something really surprise Cowley !" he said with a grin. "Come on, you villain ! But on your head be it, if it makes him cross."
"I'll risk it," said Doyle, and off they went.
Cowley and Murphy were together in Cowley's office, checking over a duty roster, when an odd sound reached their ears. Cowley raised his head.
"What was that ?," he said, a puzzled look on his face.
"I don't know," replied Murphy. "It sounded a bit like a cheer."
There was a tap at the door.
"Come in," called Cowley, and stared in amazement at the second of the two figures that entered. Then he shot round the desk, to shake Doyle's hand firmly.
There came the sound of footsteps pounding along the corridor, and a perfunctory knock. Bodie bounded in, grinning from ear to ear, and enveloped his mate in a massive bear-hug, almost swinging him off his feet.
"It's true !," he yelled. "You're back !"
"Get off, you great oaf," cried Doyle, pushing him away, but his grin was as wide as Bodie's.
"I think this calls for drinks all round," said Cowley, moving over to his cabinet.
"Only a small one for Doyle." warned Fenton. "He's still in my charge till I check him over properly."
"I'm fine," protested Doyle, "thanks to Dr. Fenton and his nurses."
"I think thanks are due to Murphy and his uncle, too," said Cowley, as he passed the glasses round.
"Yes, indeed," said Doyle, reaching to shake Murphy's hand. "I should like to meet your uncle sometime, Murphy."
"He'd like to meet you, too," said Murphy. "After all, it's not every day one gets to meet a 'messenger from the gods', is it ?"
As they raised their glasses, there were smiles all round.