Ray Doyle was on holiday, and enjoying every minute of it. Well, it wasn't so much a holiday, as enforced convalescence from injuries received on his last mission. Everything had healed rapidly apart from his right hand. An injury to the ligaments there was taking longer than he liked to improve, in spite of the doctor's assurances that this was to be expected.
He had tried to return to work, thinking he could manage something useful, but his boss, Cowley, had dismissed him brusquely.
"You can't write, and you can't hold a gun," he'd said. "You're no use to me until that hand is better. Clear off somewhere for a rest, and come back when it's properly healed."
His forthright manner sounded harsh, but only concealed the fact that he valued his operatives, and was concerned for their well-being. Doyle was one of his best men, and hadn't had a real break for some while. But the work of his organization was his first priority, and that had to go on efficiently.
Doyle accepted his dismissal, and decided to make the most of the chance. He was allowed to drive, as long as he wore a protective brace, and was careful not to attempt any lifting with his right hand.
So he quickly made a phone call, packed a bag, and took himself off to visit his friend, Jim Hogarth, down in Dorset, not far from Weymouth.
He and Jim had been friends since their younger, wilder days, and still kept in constant touch. Fifteen years ago, Jim had been left a large and interesting legacy, by an eccentric great-uncle, who wanted to keep the family name going.
Although essentially a town boy, Jim had taken a huge step, had uprooted his wife and young family, and had moved down to Dorset. By dint of very hard work, and persistence against the odds, he had changed an old run-down farm, into an efficient working project.
He had been helped by the second part of his inheritance, a rambling old house, a mere 100 yards from the farm, which had been effectively converted into half-a-dozen small flatlets, very suitable for summer letting. The income from these had kept him going through the hardest times, and now life was comfortable for him and his growing family.
Doyle had managed quite a few week-ends down there over the years, and had enjoyed kicking a football about in the field with Jim and his three young sons, or exploring with them the rocky cliffs and secluded beaches of the Dorset coastline.
Doyle arrived at the farmhouse mid-afternoon, to be warmly greeted by Jim and his wife, Rita, who were genuinely delighted to see him. Although the farmhouse had a fair number of rooms, Jim had his elderly parents staying with him, so they had ensconced Ray in one of the flatlets in the Big House, as it was known locally.
Only two of them were occupied at the moment, as it was getting to the end of the season, and Doyle was allocated the best of the others. He was quite pleased at this, as it gave him freedom to come and go as he pleased, although he was welcomed and expected to join the family for meals whenever he wished to.
Only the youngest boy, George, was still at home. The eldest son had just embarked on a career in the Army. The second was away at Agricultural College, and looked like following in father's footsteps, while the youngest, who was just 9, was still at the local school, and hadn't yet decided what he wanted to do
Insisting on carrying his bag for him, Jim walked across to the Big House with Ray, to get him settled into the flat. It was a small, but very comfortable little place, with splendid views out over the sea, and Doyle could feel himself beginning to relax. He was going to enjoy this break !
After checking that the 'fridge' was working, and that all the basic provisions, tea, coffee, milk and sugar, were there, Jim walked his friend back to the farmhouse, catching up on news as they strolled in the pleasant sunshine.
"Folly's still standing, I see," said Doyle, glancing towards the third and most peculiar part of Jim's inheritance. It stood about 50 yards further up the slope, a very odd structure indeed.! No-one had ever been able to fathom what had been in the old man's mind when he'd had it built.
It resembled, as much as anything, a squat, shrunken down lighthouse !
It was built of strong grey stone, circular, narrowing towards the top. Doyle knew it well, for he had often played with Jim's boys there, when they were younger. It had a solid stone floor, and three circular rooms, one above the other, accessed by a stone staircase, which wound in a spiral up the inside wall, leading finally to a flat stone roof.
It seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever, though Jim had found one use for it. On the top floor he had installed three basic items, a chair, a steel filing-cabinet, and a sturdy desk he had built himself from discarded timber found about the farm. The room was useless in bad weather, as it had no windows as such, only openings that admitted light, but in the hot days of summer it was a cool and secluded haven, where Jim could retire, with his calculator and his account books, and get his paper-work in order in peace and quiet.
They moved on to the farmhouse, where Jim introduced his parents, a friendly pleasant couple, and as they all sat down to a lavish country tea prepared by Rita, with scones, cream and jam, and rich fruit cake, Ray could see that this was going to be a very pleasant break, and he would be in danger of getting totally spoiled.
The conversation, relaxed and amiable, was suddenly interrupted. There was a clatter as the back door banged against the wall, and a young voice was heard.
"That car outside ! Whose is it ?," it shouted excitedly. George shot into the room, and then as he found his guess had been right, he whooped in great glee
"Uncle Ray, - Hoorah !" he shouted.
The adults were all smiling at this excitement. Jim, Rita and Ray had long ago privately discussed and smiled over their youngest's blatant hero-worship of his ' Uncle Ray ', as he insisted on calling him. None of them were disturbed by it, as they realised it was just a juvenile thing, and he would grow out of it, as he got older and found other interests.
"Hullo, mate," Doyle greeted the exuberant youngster.
George, with the ginger hair and freckles that he had inherited from his pretty mother, was a typical young schoolboy, scruffy and noisy.
"Are you staying for a bit ?," he asked eagerly.
"A little while, if you'll have me," replied Doyle, and the boy grinned widely.
"George," said his mother gently. "I suggest you go upstairs, change your clothes, wash your face and hands, and then come down and eat your tea like a civilised person."
"Yes, Mam," said the boy obediently, and shot out of the room almost as fast as he had shot in, leaving the adults smiling indulgently.
Doyle spent the next couple of days in blissful relaxation. George, under protest, had gone off to school as usual, and Jim had some urgent work to do on the farm, so he was left, quite happily, to his own devices. He walked along the cliff tops, enjoying the stiff sea breezes, and strolled along the beaches. He even tried paddling once, but decided that the Channel was neither very clean nor very warm, and abandoned that idea.
He had brought with him a good pair of binoculars, and spent some time sitting on the flat roof of the Folly, watching the shipping in the Channel. He had remembered to bring a tripod as well, to set the glasses up on, to avoid straining his hand, which, he was glad to find, seemed to be improving rapidly. Gently flexing his fingers was no longer as painful as it had been, and with all the fresh air and sunshine he had been experiencing, he found he was sleeping better than he had done for months.
It looked as if he would have to plan to return to London sometime the following week, so he arranged something special he'd been hoping to do before then.
He'd never spent much time in Bournemouth, and this seemed his opportunity. As he had a fancy to investigate the night-life of that town, he decided to stay there overnight, and return the following day.
Everyone thought it was a good plan, except George, who'd enjoyed Doyle meeting him off the school bus a couple of times. But as his father had pointed out to him, it was Ray's holiday, and, anyway, the weekend was close, and they would all make the most of that together.
So, after a leisurely breakfast the next morning, Doyle set off in his car, driving eastwards towards Poole, and then on to Bournemouth.
He found a pleasant small hotel, and was delighted to find that although his writing was a bit uneven, he was able to sign the register properly, without too much discomfort. He left his bag in his room, and his car in the hotel yard, and went out to explore the town, to see what delights a popular holiday resort had to offer. As he had plenty of time, and could please himself how he spent it, a rare luxury for him, he took a quick look in the large shopping mall, and then spent the rest of the day along the seafront, and on the pier.
He returned to the hotel for a very pleasant meal, then washed and changed, and sallied forth to see what kind of evening entertainment the town offered.
He carefully avoided the blatant pick-up efforts of various adventurous young ladies he encountered. He smiled and joked with them, but declined to accept their invitations.
He was also careful not to drink too much, as he wasn't that long off medication, and also because he had no intention of landing himself in any trouble.
Pleasantly tired, he returned to the hotel, and decided that as he'd been so careful all evening, he could indulge in a final night-cap before retiring. He went into the bar, got his drink, and moved to a quiet corner, planning to take his time over it, and amuse himself by observing the 'locals'. He leaned back in his seat, and sipped his drink, totally relaxed.
Startled, he sat up suddenly. That man at the bar ! Surely it couldn't be…..? But as the man turned to speak to the fellow next to him, he was sure. It was Harvey Redmann, wanted by the police all over the country, since he'd broken out of jail nearly five years ago.. He hadn't been spotted since then, but the dirty work he'd been into had grown and worsened, so they knew he was still active.
Chaotic thoughts chased through Doyle's mind. What was he to do now ? He was very much off-duty. He wasn't carrying a gun, of course, and his I.D. was safely hidden in his car. He could retrieve it easily enough, but by the time he'd collected it, the man could have disappeared again. Besides, how long would it take the local police to recognise his authority ? They'd probably take ages checking up on him with London.
As he leaned forward, pondering what move to make, his glance moved sideways, and spotted another face he recognised, at a table a few yards away. Ah, that made all the difference ! If he was here, something was going on. And, if a covert operation was in hand, he, Doyle, would get no thanks for blundering in and spoiling it.
He tipped his drink in acknowledgement to the man who was watching him with an anxious expression, and leaned back in his seat, relieved that he need do nothing after all.
After a while, Redmann left the bar and walked towards the door. As he saw the other man rise and follow him discretely, Doyle was satisfied that he'd read the situation, and had acted correctly .He finished his drink and went up to bed.
It couldn't have been much more than 2 am, when something alerted him. Raising up on his elbow, he reached out a hand, switched on the bed-lamp, and found himself looking down the barrel of a gun !
But he knew the face behind it.
"Inspector Wright," he said, and the gun was lowered.
"You know me ?" said the big, burly man, and pulled a chair up to the bed-side. "How ?"
"Five years ago, sir," answered Doyle promptly. "I spent six frustrating days sitting in court, while clever lawyers wriggled Redmann out of nearly every charge we'd brought against him, most of it your work."
"Ah, so you recognised Redmann," said Wright. "I thought you had by the look on your face. But you've done nothing about it ?"
"When I saw you there too," replied Doyle, "I guessed there was something afoot, and I didn't need to act."
"Besides," he added, "I'm on holiday, 'off duty', and anyway I'm not with the police any more, sir."
"Not with the police ?", queried Wright. "What are you doing now, then ?"
"I'm with C.I 5, sir", replied Doyle.
"Are C.I 5 after Redmann, then,?," asked Wright.
"Not officially," said Doyle, "but we know he's still behind a lot of vice, prostitution, and even gun-running, though he's managed to remain hidden all these years."
"Will you be reporting what you've seen ?" asked Wright.
"No, sir" replied Doyle. "I'm still on leave,. I won't be back in London till next week, and I expect you'll have made your move by then, and we'll hear about it through the usual channels."
"Yes, just a few more days," said Wright., and added curiously, "but what are you doing in Bournemouth ?"
"Just visiting," replied Doyle. "I'm staying with a friend, Jim Hogarth, over near Weymouth. I'm going back there this morning."
"Ah, Hogarth's Folly," said Wright. "I've heard of that." He stood up, and replaced the gun in his pocket.
"Well, young man," he said in a friendly tone. "I'm sorry I had to disturb you like this, but when you've been working on something for months, you can't risk someone ruining it."
"I do understand, sir," said Doyle, "I hope it all works out for you."
The big man left, and Doyle went back to sleep, with the pleasing thought that he'd have quite a tale to tell Bodie when he got back.
Next morning saw him making a leisurely journey back. He stayed a little while in Poole, had a pleasant lunch in a little country pub, and arrived back at Hogarth's Farm, early afternoon.
He stopped by the farmhouse to let them know he was back. Rita saw the car from the kitchen window, and came out to meet him.
"Did you have a good trip, Ray ?" she asked, with a welcoming smile.
"Yes, it was great," said Doyle. "Is Jim about ?"
"He's up in the Folly, with his account books," replied Rita.
"Right," said Doyle, "I'll wander up there later and find him."
"Bring him down in time for tea," said Rita, with a smile. "He's inclined to forget the time when he's busy."
Having no reason to be alert or suspicious, Doyle hadn't noticed the figure lurking round the corner of the building, listening avidly to every word. Nor, as he parked his car by the Big House, did he take any notice of the extra car already there, apart from the idle thought that one of the other tenants must have visitors.
He let himself into the flat, and unloaded his bag, putting on a safe shelf the gifts he'd bought for the family that had been treating him so well. He made some tea, and as he drank it, stood by the window, gazing out at the splendid views over the sea. He'd miss all this when he was back in grey old London next week !
Still, he knew he was always welcome here, whenever he had a decent break. Perhaps he could get Bodie down with him one weekend ?
Would he appreciate it ? Or would it be too quiet and peaceful for his mate ?
The thought of sharing a night out in Bournemouth with Bodie made him smile, as he rinsed his cup, left it on the draining-board, and set off for the Folly to find Jim.
So, as he stepped from the bright sunshine into the cool dimness of the Folly, he was taken completely by surprise by a well-directed heavy blow, which sent him sprawling to the stone floor, out cold.
He came to himself with a splitting headache, and feeling very stiff. He soon realised why, as he tried to move. His hands were cuffed behind him round one of the stone support pillars. As these were fairly substantial, the strain on his shoulders was considerable, and he was totally helpless.
Facing him, with an evil grin on his face, was Harvey Redmann, the man he'd recognised last night in Bournemouth. His expression must have revealed that he knew the man, for Redmann gave a laugh.
"So you do know me", he said. "Wright thought you did."
As Doyle started at the mention of the Inspector's name, Redmann laughed again.
"He really had you fooled, didn't he ?" he said with a grin.
"Wright's been retired for over a year, and he works for me now, very nicely, thank you."
Doyle cursed himself for his gullibility, but how should he have known that ! He really was in trouble now, and he couldn't think how he was going to be able to get out of this one.
Redmann continued to talk.
"Wright tells me you're C.I.5 now. Now, that's interesting. I wonder just how much C.I.5 knows about me.?"
He stepped towards Doyle, who glared back at him defiantly. Redmann raised his fist menacingly, and Doyle braced himself, but the expected blow never came, and Redmann let his hand drop.
"Ah, what's the use ?", snarled the man before him. "I could beat you silly, and you still wouldn't tell me anything. Your lot are like that !"
Out of the corner of his eye, Doyle saw something that gave him sudden hope. He deliberately avoided looking, and kept his gaze on Redmann.
The man had fished a gun from his pocket.
"It looks as if it has to be a quick finish, doesn't it ?," he said. "Won't it make great headlines though? 'Mystery Murder in Hogarth's Folly !'
It'll be great publicity for the place, _ bring in the tourists, no doubt."
Jim Hogarth had been busy with his calculator, and his account book, when the sound of voices below disturbed him. He looked at his watch, - Ray might be back. But he would have come straight up, wouldn't he ?
Then he remembered the car he'd noticed as he walked up past the Big House. Maybe one of his tenants had visitors, and had brought them over to look at the Folly. He'd better go down and be a dutiful host, telling them about its history, and his eccentric great-uncle.
He put his calculator in his pocket, his files back in the cabinet, and carrying his account book under his arm, started down the long winding staircase.
But as he reached the opening to the ground floor, he stopped suddenly, and gazed in disbelief.!
There was a man standing in the middle of the room, fortunately with his back to the curve of the stairs.. He was holding a gun on Ray, who appeared to be tied to one of the supporting pillars.
Jim thought quickly. Taking one step back out of sight, he quietly slipped off his boots. Then, grasping the thick account book firmly in both hands, he began to creep silently down the steps in his stocking-feet.
He was certain that Ray had seen him, but his friend was cleverly not looking his way.
He was almost to the bottom, when he heard the click as the man released the safety-catch on the gun,. He saw him raise the weapon to point it at Ray, and knew he had to act fast.
He leapt down the last few steps, raising the book high, and brought it down as hard as he could on the back of the man's head !
The gun flew out of Redmann's hand as he fell to his knees, but fortunately didn't go off. Jim jumped on top of Redmann, and hit him again with the book.
There was a sudden yell from the doorway ! Both men looked that way. George stood in the opening, white as a sheet, and petrified with fright. !
He'd got home from school, spotted Doyle's car, and learned from his mum that Dad was in the Folly, and Ray had gone up to meet him. He'd dashed up the hill to find them, and had entered the doorway to a horrifying scene.
His Dad was sitting on top of a man, beating him with a book. Ray seemed stuck by a pillar, and a gun, a real gun, was skittering across the stone floor !
Seeing that the boy was almost paralysed with shock, Doyle tried to think of something to break the tension.
"George, old son," he called to him. "Just in time ! See if your dad can find the key to get me out of these cuffs." It was enough !
George charged over to his father, who by this time had managed to knock Redmann out. He was fishing in the man's pockets, and handed the key to the boy, who rushed over to Doyle and fumbled to unlock the pinioning hand-cuffs. He managed it at last, and Doyle eased his strained shoulders thankfully.
The boy offered the key and the cuffs back to Doyle, but he was still trying to ease the boy out of the fright he'd had.
"I think they'd look better on him," he said cheerfully. "Would you like to do it ?"
Together they walked over to Jim and the recumbent Redmann. On the way, Doyle surreptitiously retrieved the gun, flicked on the safety catch, and concealed it in his back belt.
Doyle showed the excited boy how to click the cuffs into place and secure the man.
Jim sent his son off up the steps to retrieve his boots for him, and turned to Ray. He too was a bit shaken by events, but he was pleased with the way his friend had handled George.
Doyle quickly expressed his gratitude to his friend, whose courageous action had undoubtedly saved his life. Jim modestly waved away his words.
"What now ?," he asked.
"Somewhere safe to put him while I make a phone call," said Doyle, trying to think what best to do with his prisoner.
"Let's go down to the farm," suggested Jim. "I'll get Harry to watch him."
By this time Redmann was waking up again, and he began shouting and protesting with language that the two adults would have preferred that the boy, who had just returned with his father's boots, should not be hearing. Doyle stuck a hand over the man's mouth to silence him, and spoke to George
"Will you run ahead for us," he suggested, "and make sure Harry's there."
The boy shot off obediently, and as Jim and Ray dragged Redmann to his feet, they told him, in no uncertain terms, to hold his tongue if he knew what was good for him. The man had the sense to subside, and only muttered angrily under his breath, as the two men forced him down the path towards the farm.
They reached the barn and herded their captive inside. Doyle pushed him down onto a couple of straw bales, and found a length of baler twine to tightly secure his ankles. He didn't want there to be any chance of losing this man again.
George was there with Harry, Jim's dour stockman. Doyle had met Harry several times, and had got no more than brief words, and a few grunts from him, but he was a very reliable man.
"Look after him, Harry," said Jim. "He's a villain, and we don't want him to escape."
"He bain't going nowhere," grunted Harry, and advanced with his pitchfork held menacingly close to Redmann, who blanched visibly and cowered away.
The two men hustled George way, and into the house, where he chattered excitedly to his mother and grandparents. He had quite recovered from his fright now, and was enjoying every minute of the adventure.
Using special numbers and codes, Doyle got through to London and eventually to Cowley's office.. Cowley answered the call.
"Doyle," he said, in some surprise. "What do you want ?"
"Some advice, sir," replied Doyle. "I've found something, and I'd like you to suggest what I'd better do with it."
"What do you mean, - found something ?" said Cowley crossly. "Are you all right, Doyle ? You're not drunk, are you ?"
"Certainly not," said Doyle indignantly.
"Well, what have you found that's so important ?," demanded Cowley, impatiently.
"Harvey Redmann," said Doyle, and silenced his boss's gasp of disbelief, by quickly and succinctly telling him the whole story, finishing up by saying,
"What had I better do with him now, sir ?"
"Give me a minute to think," said Cowley, astounded by Doyle's news. "I'd like him myself, of course, but we'd better go through the proper channels. You're near Weymouth, aren't you ?. I know the main man there, a good chap called Phillips. I'll get him to come and relieve you of him."
"Thank you, sir," said Doyle, and rang off, confident that his boss would now quickly get things organised.
He and Jim managed to sit down to enjoy the tea Rita had prepared. She listened quietly as they told her their version of what had happened, much clearer than her son's excited gabbling.
George couldn't sit still however. He kept popping out of the door, either to peer into the barn, where Harry was still doggedly standing guard, impervious to Redmann's attempts to bribe him to let him escape, or running to the gate to gaze down the track towards the main road.
He got his reward at last, as he excitedly reported to his elders that two police cars were coming up towards the farm.
They stopped at the farm gate, and disgorged half-a dozen uniformed police. A tall distinguished-looking officer stepped forward to meet the group coming out of the farmhouse door, and introduced himself as Chief Inspector Phillips.
Doyle, who had retrieved his I.D. card from his car, proffered it politely. The big man gave it a perfunctory look, and smiled.
"No real need for that, young man," he said. "George Cowley described you to me."
"Doyle went to put his card away, but a young hand was grasping his wrist, pulling his hand round to look at it. With a smile, Doyle let him hold the card, telling him firmly,!
"You can hold on to it for me, just for a minute, but don't lose it !"
George retired to a seat by the wall, studying the card intently, trying to commit every detail to memory before he had to give it back.
What a tale he'd have to tell his schoolmates !
"You had a stroke of luck, didn't you, Doyle ?," said Phillips, as Doyle and Jim led him and his men towards the barn. "Let's see this elusive villain you've caught."
It didn't take long for the burly policemen to deal with Redmann. As they cut the baler twine and hustled him out to one of the cars, the Chief Inspector found time to congratulate Harry for standing guard so well, and the dour old farm worker actually raised a smile.
As they walked back towards the cars, Phillips added a word.
"Message from George for you, Doyle," he said "Tell him I'll see about Wright, too."
"Good," said Doyle, for Wright's involvement still rankled with him. He must have been the one who told Redmann where to find him, and that had endangered the whole family.
They watched the cars depart, in a cloud of dust, and then went back to finish their tea in peace.
George reluctantly handed Doyle his card back. Then suddenly he started and looked guilty. Meeting Doyle's inquiring look, he fished in his pocket, and said worriedly
"I forgot to give the handcuff key back."
"I shouldn't worry about it," said Doyle. "I expect they'll find another one. Keep it as a souvenir."
Over the weekend, the weather continued to stay fine, and George, Jim and Ray, and the rest of the family, made the most of every minute.
Doyle found his hand had improved rapidly. He had discarded the brace altogether, and was using the hand freely. He found he could still catch a flying Frisbee as well as ever, without any discomfort, so he knew his holiday was finally over.
He said his final farewells over Monday's breakfast, and after delivering the gifts he had bought, which were received with delight and some protest, he set off on the long drive back to London. Tuesday morning saw an early appointment with the doctor, who, as he had expected, passed his hand as fully recovered.
On his way up to Cowley's office to report back, he met up with Bodie. His friend had already heard the whole story from Cowley, but he was looking forward to getting all the details again from his mate.
He couldn't resist a bit of teasing.
"Can't let you out anywhere on your own," he said, in mock reproof.
"I might have known you'd find trouble somewhere."
"I survived, didn't I ?", retorted Doyle, though he was remembering how close a call it had actually been.
"More by luck than judgement !," exclaimed Bodie.
Actually that's true, thought Doyle to himself. He was still castigating himself for letting Wright deceive him so easily, and he knew very well how lucky he'd been that Jim had been there to come to his rescue.
The pair of them continued on their way in comradely fashion, to see their boss, Cowley, and to find out what he had planned for them now, - together, of course. It worked better that way.!