I have no wish to breach copyright rules, so I know that the characters I write about are only 'on loan'

Second Attempt.

The large warehouse echoed to the sound of gunfire. Several C.I. 5 men crouched behind boxes close to the doorway. Their fire was directed towards the rear of the building where the besieged gang of villains were attempting to resist. Not very successfully, as evidenced by two of their number sprawled on the dusty stone floor.

An authoritative voice rang out.

"Hold your fire !," ordered Doyle, as he spotted a rather grubby white handkerchief, tied to a stick, being waved above a pile of crates.

"Come out, hands empty and high," added another voice, as Bodie joined his team-mate.

Obediently, three cowed, defeated men shambled into sight, glancing fearfully at the fallen bodies. They were quickly rounded up, and their abandoned weapons collected.

Doyle and Bodie watched as the men were loaded into cars and carted away.

"That's a good job done," said Bodie. "Now there's only the master-mind behind them. I'll stay here and investigate all this stuff," he said, waving at the piles of stacked crates.

"And I'll go and pick up Mr. Bertoni," said Doyle, "before he hears about this raid. I'll take Murphy, and call in a team to take Bertoni's office apart."

They parted company, each doing his part of the operation, anticipating a very successful outcome, due to good team-work.

Doyle and Murphy shot off quickly to the London suburb, where their quarry had an office above a betting-shop, which, although in use, was only a front for the gang they had been after for some time.

They had amassed a great deal of evidence about the set-up, for this group smuggled anything of any value, alcohol, tobacco, furs, and even heroin and small-arms, and were behind many other dubious activities all over London, and beyond.

The betting-shop was in a busy High Street, thronged with crowds of Saturday afternoon shoppers, but the element of surprise was with Doyle and Murphy, and the men who had joined them.

They were through the shop, and up to the second floor office very quickly. A startled Bertoni was soon grabbed, arrested and hustled out, while the experienced team, brought in for the purpose, began a detailed examination of everything in the tiny office, finding, as they had hoped, some very interesting lists, invoices and plans.

Murphy and Doyle left them to it, and made their way downstairs again. They stood for a while in front of the shop, talking over the details of the operation. When they got back to Headquarters, they would have to make a report to their boss, Cowley, and he liked reports to be detailed and accurate.

But just for now they were relaxed, satisfied that a difficult task had been completed satisfactorily.

The street was very busy, with crowds of people, either hurrying along, loaded with bags of shopping, or just sauntering slowly, window-shopping at their leisure.

Suddenly there was a disturbance in the crowd.

A voice called out "Murderer !".

As Doyle and Murphy turned instinctively towards the sound, a shot rang out, followed by startled shouts from the crowd.

The force of the bullet, at such close range, slammed Doyle back against the plate-glass front of the shop. Fortunately, it did not break under the impact. Almost in slow-motion, his limp form slid down the smooth surface, to lie sprawled on the dusty pavement.!

Murphy was by his side in an instant, appalled to see the bright red stain spreading swiftly on the white T-shirt. But, being a well-trained C.I.5

man, he did not panic, but moved swiftly into action. His right hand grabbed his radio, and thumbed the control button. His left groped for and found the pristine still-folded white handkerchief in his inside pocket.

He pressed it to the centre of the scarlet stain, and held it firmly with the heel of his hand.

He made three swift calls on the radio. The first was to the priority emergency ambulance, and the second to George Cowley.

The third was the most difficult.! He asked base to put him through to 37.

Bodie had completed his task at the warehouse, and was on his way back to Headquarters. His car-phone rang, and he picked it up.

"Bodie," he answered cheerfully, completely unaware, of course, of the shock that was to come.

"It's Murphy," came the voice on the phone. "Bodie, Doyle's been shot ! It's pretty bad, I'm afraid."

Bodie didn't waste any time asking for details. He posed only one question.

"Which hospital ?," he demanded tersely.

Murphy told him. Bodie slammed the phone down, and put his foot on the accelerator, startling the traffic around him. He sped through the busy streets as rapidly as safety would allow, and swept into the hospital car-park.

As he ran towards the entrance, he saw Cowley's car pull up. The pair met at the doorway and entered as fast as they could. Cowley pulled out his I.D. card, and recognizing his authority, a junior doctor took it upon himself to escort them both rapidly to the correct area.

They were met by a senior doctor, who told them all he knew.

"He's going straight into theatre," he told them brusquely.

He showed them where they could wait, and added "I'll make sure you're informed as soon as there's anything to tell."

Cowley swiftly told Bodie the few details that he knew, and watched anxiously as his man paced up and down the little waiting-room.

At last, he'd had enough.

"Sit down, Bodie," he ordered. "You're not doing him any good, and you're driving me crazy"

"How did it happen?," demanded Bodie.

"I don't know yet," replied Cowley. At that moment, his radio buzzed. He answered it and listened intently for a while, then closed the contact.

"That was Murphy," he said to the attentive Bodie. "He's working with the local police. But all he could tell me, was that Doyle was shot by a little old lady, and that they've lost her."

"A little old lady !," exclaimed Bodie incredulously. "But, why, for goodness sake ?"

Time seemed to drag as they waited. No further reports came in from Murphy, though they knew that a lot would be going on, and that they would hear again if there was anything to report.

At last, the door opened. They both jumped to their feet, as the doctor they had seen before entered.

"Well," demanded Cowley, impatiently.

"We've done all we can," said the surgeon. "It's touch and go, I'm afraid. The next 24 hours are critical. But he's fit and strong, so he has a chance."

"Can we see him ?," asked Bodie.

"He's in intensive care," said the doctor, and led them to an observation window. "No visitors yet," he stated firmly.

Doyle lay flat on the narrow bed, with all the paraphernalia of tubes and monitors around him. He was still and very pale. Bodie's heart quailed. His mate didn't look good ! I can't lose him like this, he thought to himself desperately.

He turned to Cowley, standing beside him with a grim expression.

"Can I stay ?," he asked simply.

Cowley nodded. He knew very well he'd get no useful work from Bodie, until Doyle's condition changed, one way or the other. Although so different, these two men were very close, real team-mates.

"I'll go and see Murphy," he said, "and find out if they've made any progress." He turned to the doctor.

"You'll keep me informed ?," he requested.

"Instantly, if there's any change," the man promised.

Cowley joined Murphy at the local police station, but learned little more. Although their descriptions varied slightly, as was normal with any group of eye-witnesses, all were adamant that the gun had been fired by a little old lady, dressed in black, and that she had simply melted away into the crowds of shoppers. People had been too startled to attempt to stop her.

Some recalled that she had shouted "Murderer" before she fired, and this added to the problem.

True, Doyle had killed a fair number of men in the line of duty, as had most of the C.I. 5 men, Doyle perhaps more than most, as he was so often in the front line of action. But to label him 'murderer' was a bit extreme, and suggested a personal vendetta.

He returned to Headquarters, and set some men to investigate records of men Doyle had killed. But trying to connect an elderly female with any of them was going to be a mammoth task.

For the next 24 hours, Bodie haunted the I.C.U. of the hospital. He sent out for snacks to keep his strength up, though he didn't really feel like eating, and slept fitfully for short spells, on the couch in the small waiting-room.

He stood for hours, just gazing through the window at the figure lying so still within, but his every enquiry was met with the same two words ,'no change '.

He said nothing out loud, but mentally he was willing his mate to respond, exhorting him desperately. "Hang in there, mate ! " he begged silently. "We need you. Cowley needs you. I need you !"

Time passed very slowly, but it did pass, and his mate stayed alive. The doctors and nurses going in and out began to look less concerned and stressed, and hope began to strengthen.

Late on the second evening, the doctor came to speak to him.

"Your friend is definitely improving," he said. "He's not completely 'out of the wood' yet, but all the signs are promising."

He studied Bodie thoughtfully.

"You, on the other hand," he commented, "look decidedly rough. I suggest you go home, have a proper meal, a shower, a shave, and a decent night's rest, and come back in the morning."

As Bodie looked a bit doubtful, he added persuasively

"He'll be all right, and we'd let you know instantly if he wasn't."

With some reluctance, Bodie decided to do as he was told. After a decent meal, and a leisurely shower, he was surprised to re-discover how comfortable his own bed was, and slept like a log.

He woke refreshed and feeling so much better. His step when he entered the hospital, and made his way to the I.C. Unit, was back to his usual jaunty style. He came to the window and gazed in.

Doyle wasn't there !

The occupant of the bed was a girl, her long blonde hair spread over the pillow.

The nurse must have seen his stunned look, for she came quickly to open the door, and come out to him.

"It's all right, Mr. Bodie," she said re-assuringly. "Your friend had a very good night, and he's so much better, we've moved him out, to make room for a more desperate case."

She pointed down the corridor.

"He's in Room 7," she informed him, "and I expect they'll let you go in today."

Bodie released the breath he'd been holding, and thanked her. He moved along the corridor and found Room 7. A nurse opened the door as he reached it and smiled at him.

Bodie went in. Most of the tubes and monitors had gone now. Doyle was definitely a much better colour, not nearly so pale. His eyes were still closed, but his eyelids fluttered occasionally, as if he might wake at any moment. He was breathing on his own now, and the rise and fall of his chest was steady and regular.

Bodie found himself a chair, pulled it nearer the bedside and subsided into it, recovering quickly from his recent shock.

Cowley called in later, and they were both there when Doyle finally opened his eyes, and they got the flicker of a smile that they had been missing for the last few days.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P.C. Dobbs was having a quiet day. He'd been on front-desk duty all morning, but he'd only had two incidents to deal with. One was a man who reported a lost wallet. Fat chance of that being recovered ! The other was a timid lady who'd come in to show her driving-licence after a minor motoring offence, which hardly merited more than a caution.

He looked at his watch. Still half-an-hour to go till his lunch break, he noted. Then maybe he'd be on something different this afternoon.

He heard the sound of the swing-doors, and looked up. A little old lady was coming towards the desk. What would this be ? A lost cat ? Or a stolen purse, or perhaps a window broken by vandals ?

He raised a smile, and spoke to her gently.

"Well, madam," he said, "How can we help you today ?"

"I've come to report a murder," she replied.

"A murder !," he exclaimed, considerably surprised.

"How ?," he enquired. "Did you find a body? See something happen ?"

" I did it," she stated calmly.

P.C. Dobbs gaped at her, not believing his ears. The station had had its fair share of cranks, coming in to confess to all sorts of crimes, but this was his first experience. He gulped and looked at her in disbelief.

"You did it ?," he queried.

"Yes, with this gun," she said, as she fished a heavy old pistol from her shopping bag, and laid it on the desk in front of him.

I can't handle this, thought Dobbs, and pressed the alarm button for assistance. His sergeant appeared from the back, looked from the gun to the little old lady, and called for the Inspector and a female P.C.

They arrived quickly and ushered her into a briefing-room.

She carefully smoothed out her gloves and tucked them into her bag, then sat down at the table and proceeded to tell them her story.

"My name is Mary Southerton," she started quietly. "I am a widow, my husband died 10 years ago. We only had one child, a daughter, Karen

Four years ago my daughter married a Joseph Murray. I never did like him, I thought from the start he was a wrong 'un. I tried hard to talk her out of it, but she's always been headstrong, more so since she lost her father.

And I was correct, for right from the beginning he started in to ill-treat her. He would go out and get drunk, then come home and take it out on her. I begged her to leave him, but she was stubborn, said she could make him change.

But he didn't, not even when she was pregnant. I was so afraid she would lose the baby, but she avoided that. It was born safely, a dear little boy we called William."

She stopped to fish up her sleeve for a handkerchief, and wiped the tears from her eyes.

"He never took to the baby," she continued. "He blamed her when William cried, but babies do, don't they ?" she added plaintively. "I heard him yelling at her once. He said, "If you don't shut that flipping kid up, I'll kill you both"

The listeners exchanged glances. This was a nasty story, though similar ones were all too common in the poorer areas of the city.

"And then, 4 months ago, he did just that !," she stated baldly.

"Took a carving knife, and killed them both, my Karen, and our dear little William."

She employed the handkerchief again, while her audience, somewhat appalled by what they were hearing, made sympathetic noises.

She sat up straighter, and spoke firmly.

"So I decided I would kill him," she declared.

"I looked out my husband's old gun, one he brought back from the war, and made it ready. Joe had run away, of course, but I kept on searching, visiting all the places I knew he used to go. It's taken me a long time, but early this morning I found him. I shot him dead, and I don't regret it. You'll find his body in the alley behind Wilton Terrace."

She folded her hands and sat back, satisfied with her confession.

The Inspector stared for a moment in disbelief, then shot into action. He called in Dobbs to stand guard, sent some others off to Wilton Terrace, and told the woman P.C., first to get Mrs. Southerton a cup of tea, then to call in the police doctor to examine her.

He still didn't know whether to believe her astonishing story.

But within 15 minutes, his squad reported back with the news that the body of a man lay just where she had said.

Things moved pretty quickly after that. The gun was carefully bagged, then sent off, first to forensics to deal with finger-prints, then on to ballistics, where the arrival of the bullets recovered in the post mortem would confirm that this was the gun used to kill Joseph Murray.

He had already been identified, for his photo and prints were already in police files, for several cases of G.B.H.

The police doctor talked with for some time, and declared her completely sane and rational.

Her statement was carefully gone over and checked with her, but she didn't waver over one word of it. It was typed up neatly for her to sign. This she did, without any hesitation.

"That's that," she said at last. "I did it, I meant to do it, and I have no regrets whatsoever."

She sat back in her chair contentedly, quite ready to await whatever would happen next.

Then she suddenly straightened up again.

"But I am sorry about the other one," she said.

"What other one ?" queried the Inspector, not understanding what she'd just said.

"The one I shot last Saturday, in the High Street. I thought it was him, it looked like him," she added agitatedly.

Bemused, but determined to follow this up, the Inspector got through to the police station nearest the High Street, and asked for the senior officer.

"Did you have a shooting in your area?," he demanded. "In the High Street, last Saturday ? I haven't seen any updates about it."

"As a matter of fact, we did," admitted the officer." But the victim was a C.I.5 man, and they took over and hushed it all up, so it didn't appear on our books. Why ?," he asked curiously.

The Inspector explained.

"We've just had a confession to murder," he said. "and she said she'd made a mistake, - shot the wrong man first time."

"It wasn't a little old lady, dressed in black, was it ?," exclaimed the officer excitedly.

The two officers quickly exchanged all the information they had.

"We'd better get on to C.I 5," said one. "They'll want to know all the details.

And that was quickly done.

Bodie made all speed to the relevant police station. He took Murphy with him, for he had caught just a glimpse of Doyle's assailant. Looking through a one-way window, he quickly identified the little old lady sitting calmly at the table.

They spoke to the Inspector, read the statement, and learned all the facts available. As they left to report to Cowley, Bodie turned back.

"You can tell her, if you like," he said. "Our man wasn't killed. He's recovering, slowly, but he's going to be all right."

"I think that will really please her," said the Inspector. "She's a funny old dear. She's had a rough time, and she's got lots of problems to come, I'm afraid."

Bodie and Murphy called in at the morgue on the way back. As they looked at the body of Joseph Murray, they saw just why the mistake had happened. The body they were shown was much the same build as Doyle, and the shock of dark curly hair was very similar to their friend's style.

They returned to base, and put in a detailed report to Cowley telling him all the facts they had learned.

The next afternoon found Bodie visiting his mate, who was making good progress. He found him, propped up in bed with a pile of pillows, and looking much more like his usual self.

He greeted him cheerfully.

"Hullo, sunshine," he said. "You're looking better."

"Getting there," agreed Doyle, pleased to see his friend. For, although he never gave any trouble, he was not the most patient of patients, and was beginning to get a little bored with his enforced inactivity.

"Well," said Bodie gleefully. "We've solved the mystery."

"What mystery ?," said Doyle, with a puzzled look

"Why, the mystery of who shot you," explained Bodie

."Who was it, then ?," asked Doyle.

"A vengeful mother-in-law," declared Bodie.

"What ?," exclaimed Doyle. "I haven't got a mother-in-law !"

"No ," continued Bodie, " and you didn't murder her daughter and grandchild either. He did !"

"Who did ?", said Doyle, totally confused

"Joseph Murray, the man she killed yesterday morning," said Bodie, and he went on to clarify all the details for his bemused mate.

"We saw the body," he finished, "and he did look like you. They showed us his clothes too, boots, jeans and a leather jacket, - just your style."

"So I was a case of 'mistaken identity'," said Doyle struggling to take it all in. "A first attempt, which failed, fortunately, Well, I never !"

Back in his office Cowley was re-reading the report. A case of 'mistaken identity, indeed !

Fate is a fickle jade, he thought to himself. An error by a sad old lady had nearly cost him one of his best men.

He'd lost men before and grieved over them privately, never showing his feelings, for the sake of morale, but if he had lost Doyle in such a pointless way, he would have found it doubly hard to take.