Against the Odds.

Ken and Roger Fieldman were enjoying their summer holidays. Both clever boys, they liked school, but were glad when the summer break came, as it gave them a chance to visit different places, and learn a lot of new things.

As they were now 12 and 14 years old respectively, and sensible boys, they were allowed certain latitude to go off exploring on their own, though their rather over-protective mother insisted that they phone her regularly so she was sure they were all right.

But on Thursdays and Fridays, the two days when she went to work in an accountant's office, she refused to leave them totally to their own devices. She insisted in dropping them off, on her way in to work, into the charge of her older brother, Fred.

But the two boys didn't really mind that. They were very fond of their Uncle Fred. Although quite severely disabled, and unable to get about very easily, he still managed to take them on outings, and as he was very knowledgeable about lots of things, for he was an avid reader, he made the places he took them to twice as interesting.

So, one Thursday morning, their mother dropped them off, each with a rucksack well-laden with food and soft drinks. They were excited, for Uncle Fred had promised to take them to the Zoo.

It was a rather tedious journey, as it involved two changes of buses, and a short trip on the Tube, but at last they were safely there.

As they all knew that their uncle would not be able to walk around much, they had made a plan. They would find a suitable central point, where Fred could sit comfortably, and guard the provisions, while the two boys explored whichever animals they chose to look at, returning at regular intervals to report.

The plan worked beautifully. They found a nicely situated table and chairs, in the shade of a big tree, where Uncle Fred could sit, and see a fair way in all directions. The boys were glad to unload their rucksacks, which were heavy, for their mother had provided a full day's rations for all three of them.

Their uncle had brought two books with him, one on Natural Science, and also an Encyclopaedia of Animals, and the boys came back frequently to consult these, then shot off again to verify what they had read.

About mid-day, Fred had insisted that they sat down for a bit, ate and drank quietly, and had a rest. As it was a nice dry day, and pleasantly warm, all three were enjoying the outing.

Later in the afternoon, as the boys raced back from the Aquarium to check up on something they had seen, they found that their uncle was no longer alone. A man was sitting beside him, talking to him. They slowed their pace to a sedate walk, and approached slowly. The man was about their uncle's age, they guessed. He had dark curly hair, and was wearing jeans and a black leather jacket.

Their uncle beckoned to them to come, and introduced them.

"Ken and Roger, my nephews," he said, "And this is my friend, Ray Doyle."

The man gave them a pleasant smile, and shook their proffered hands in a friendly manner.

"Boys," said Fred, "I'm afraid you can only have another ten minutes. You know how long it's going to take us to get home, and your mother will have a fit if we're not there when she comes to collect you."

Then a voice interrupted. "I could take you all home, Fred," said Doyle. "I'm 'off-duty' now and my time's my own."

"Would you, Ray ?," said Fred. "We'd be very grateful. It would be so much easier, for me, especially."

"Of course, I will," said his friend, with a smile, "No trouble."

Fred turned to the boys."Well, lads, thanks to Ray," he said, "You can have another half-hour. Be back promptly then, though, to carry your stuff to the car."

The boys thanked Doyle, checked their watches, and then set off at top speed for the Reptile House.

"They are good boys," said Fred fondly. He turned to his friend, and added with a grin, "Now you can tell me about the job you want me to do."

"Can't fool you, can I, Fred ?," said Doyle with a smile. "Yes, there's a place we'd like you to keep an eye on for us. It's a big house, in Fentiman Road in Streatham. Several of our agents have been tracking some dubious characters, and we've found that all of them have visited this house, either on a Monday or a Tuesday. We don't quite know what's going on. Might be drugs, might be something else."

Fred nodded. He'd done this sort of observation work before.

"We've made it comfortable for you, though," went on Doyle. "There's a small café nearly opposite, and the owner is the brother of one of our men. He's agreed to let you sit in an upstairs room, and he'll keep you fed too."

"Great," said Fred, "That's surveillance in style !"

"We'll arrange transport," added Doyle "I'll let you know when it's sorted out."

They had to break off their conversation, as Roger had come shooting back, looking for information about an axolotl. Both men helped him find the relevant facts in the books, and he dashed off again.

But they were obedient lads, and came back promptly when their half-hour was up. They re-packed their rucksacks with what was left of the food, disposed of the litter properly, and followed dutifully as the two adults made their way towards the main gates.

Doyle's car wasn't far away. He opened up the boot to stow away the rucksacks, then tilted forward the driver's seat to let the boys climb into the back.

Unused to this car, Ken caught his foot, and lost his balance. He fell against Doyle, who put out an arm and steadied him quickly. Then with Fred gratefully in the front passenger seat, very relieved to have been saved so much walking, they set off.

Knowing all the back streets, Doyle avoided the rush-hour traffic and was soon drawing up at Fred's home. His friend invited him in, but Doyle declined, saying he did have a date later.

The boys retrieved their belongings, thanked Doyle politely for the ride, and walked up the path.

"I'll be in touch, Fred," said Doyle, and drove away speedily.

The boys followed their uncle inside. It would be five or ten minutes before their mother arrived, so they sat down at the kitchen table to talk about their day.

Ken had a thoughtful look on his face. "Uncle Fred," he said. "Did you know your friend has a gun.?"

"Has he ?," replied Fred, hoping this wasn't going to start an awkward conversation.

"Yes," went on Ken, "When I nearly fell over, getting into the car, I leaned against him, and I felt it."

Roger chipped in. "I expect he's a policeman," he said. "You've lots of friends in the police, haven't you, Uncle Fred.?"

If Fred had thought more quickly, he could have simply said "Yes".

But he was used to being utterly truthful with the boys. "He used to be," he replied, "but he isn't now."

Fortunately, the sound of a car drawing up saved him any further questions.

"Here's your mother, now, boys," he said. "Run and let her in."

As he had hoped, they chatted eagerly to their mother about the animals they'd seen He saw them off, feeling sure that was the end of their potentially awkward questions.

But Ken was a child with a very enquiring mind, full of curiosity. As he lay in bed that night, he was still thinking.

"Roger," he said, "That man was carrying a gun."

"Well,?," said his brother sleepily.

"But Uncle Fred said he wasn't a policeman," went on Ken, "and ordinary people aren't allowed to carry guns, are they ?"

A sleepy grunt was his brother's only response.

"Maybe he's a spy !," said Ken suddenly.

"Don't be silly !," said Roger, stung to reply. "Uncle Fred wouldn't be friends with a spy, would he ?"

"Maybe he doesn't know," Ken kept on.

"Oh, go to sleep," snapped his brother. "I'm tired."

The older boy was soon fast asleep, but Ken lay awake for a long time, worrying about his uncle's friend, who had seemed nice enough, but who was wearing a gun under his jacket.

Bodie and Doyle met, as they often did, climbing the stairs to their boss's office.

"Where were you yesterday ?," asked Bodie. "I didn't see you when I knocked off."

"No, I went to the Zoo," replied Doyle.

Bodie looked at his mate in astonishment. "Whatever for ?," he asked. Then he gave a grin, and added, "You weren't after a hippopotamus, were you ?"

This was a standing joke between them, referring to a previous job. Doyle returned the smile.

"No," he said, "Actually, I went to brief Fred on the surveillance job we want him to do. Met his nephews, nice boys !"

Fred was soon set up with all the help he needed, to do what he was especially good at, - observing, and making notes on what he saw. He also had the services of a very good camera-man, who took shots as he directed.

Late in the afternoon, a couple of days later, Doyle popped in to see how he was getting on. He was greeted warmly.

"Ray, nice to see you !," exclaimed Fred. "I was hoping you'd come in, to see if you can make sense of this."

"Why, what's going on ?," asked Doyle.

"Well," said his friend, "I've been here nearly two days, and in that time, I've seen getting on for thirty men, going in and out, across the road."

"That many ?," Doyle said in surprise. "What's going on in there ?."

"Oh, they don't stop," replied Fred, "They're in and out again in less than five minutes. But this is a carefully planned thing, Ray. It's not random. The men must have had instructions, for they turn up alone at regular intervals, and they don't overlap. They never meet each other !"

"Very odd," commented Doyle. "Seems to me it's some sort of recruiting scheme."

"But what for ?," queried Fred. "If they were the 'strong-arm' types, big tough men, you'd think someone was building up a private army. But they are not like that at all ! They're mainly insignificant, weedy, 'no-hoper' types, layabouts and idlers. I recognised one or two of them, some mild addicts, a couple of 'small-time' pushers, a retired burglar. You'll get all the names I know, attached to the pictures when they're printed."

Doyle knew he would get splendid reports from Fred. He was so meticulous and accurate, and very observant. But he was as puzzled as Fred over what it all meant.

"I'd better go back and report to Cowley," he said. "See if he has any idea what it's all about."

"One more thing," said Fred. "There's no sign of anyone you might call a 'boss' man, and never any cars at the door."

"Maybe there's a back way in," suggested Doyle.

Doyle returned to Headquarters, and met Bodie, just on his way upstairs. They went into Cowley's office together, and Doyle told them both what he'd heard from Fred.

"Hm," said Cowley, when he'd finished. "There's something odd going on evidently, but what ? And how do we find out ?."

"We could put a man of our own in," suggested Bodie.

"That won't do," declared Doyle. "These men aren't responding randomly, like to an 'ad' in a paper, for example. They are being contacted, and told exactly when to come. If someone unexpected turned up, they'd know it."

Bodie frowned as he thought again. "We grab one we know, and 'persuade' him to tell us," he said.

This time Cowley was dubious. "I think they'd find that out," he said thoughtfully, "and then they might postpone or cancel what they're planning. We might pick up a few, but they'd only be 'small fry'. I'd like to know what's behind it, and who the 'big men' are."

"What do we do then ?," asked Bodie, always eager to get some action going.

"I think we have to be extremely patient," said Cowley at last. Seeing Bodie's scowl, he added, "Oh, I know that doesn't suit you, Bodie, but I think it's all we can do. We'll put a very discreet watch on some of the names Fred can give us, and wait and see just what they do in the next few weeks."

By the end of the next day, Fred reported that the visits seemed to have stopped. By then he had noted forty-three callers. He had photos and descriptions of them all, and had positively identified a dozen of them.

For the next couple of weeks Bodie and Doyle were well occupied on several different jobs, and didn't give much thought to the puzzle. But other agents were on the job, and it hadn't been forgotten.

Finally, they managed a Sunday off. Bodie found a girl free to go boating on the Thames, and Doyle put in a full day working on the old classic motor-bike that he was renovating. So they each had a bit of 'R and R', and came in Monday morning ready to tackle the next job on the list.

Cowley came in bright and early too, to find a sheaf of reports on his desk. As he started to read them, a look of interest came over his face. He picked up the internal phone, and called the Duty Officer.

"Are Bodie and Doyle in yet ?," he enquired.

The officer moved to the window of his office, and looked down into the yard. "They've both just pulled in," he reported.

"Good," said Cowley. "Send them straight up to me."

A few minutes later the pair were in their boss's office, waiting eagerly for what he was undoubtedly, judging by the look on his face, very keen to tell them.

"These are the reports," he began, "on the men we've been carefully watching."

The interest of the listening pair quickened. Maybe an answer to the mystery was forthcoming. Cowley continued his report. "On Saturday, three of them went to the races at Sandown Park, and the other three paid visits during the day to their local 'bookies'."

"Not unusual activities for a Saturday," put in Bodie, only to be silenced by a fierce glare from his boss.

"Each of them," went on Cowley, "put on a bet of £20 – all of them on the same horse!."

"I've met something like this when I was in the police," said Doyle. "It's called 'shedding'. If a gambling syndicate has a good tip, they divide the stake, and spread it around different places. It avoids curiosity, and possible shortening of odds."

He got glared at too, for Cowley was trying to finish what he was saying. "But in this case," he said triumphantly, "the horse in question won, and they all collected quite a bit of money."

"That was just lucky, surely ?," said Bodie.

"Maybe not !," exclaimed Doyle. "Don't you see ? This is what the whole business is about – all these men recruited."

"What do you mean ?," asked Bodie, who hadn't yet followed his clever friend's line of thought.

"If you link 'shedding' on a very large scale, with 'race-fixing'" said Doyle. "Then you've got a very lucrative scam going."

"Of course," Cowley agreed. "Make sure a certain horse will win. Give each man a small reward for his co-operation, and collect in the bulk of the winnings."

"Take, for instance," explained Doyle, "a hundred of these small punters. Give them £20 each to put on a designated horse at 5 to 1. Each man makes £100 profit. Allow them to keep the £20 stake they get back as well, but collect in the rest. You have laid out £2,000 but you've got back £10,000. Not bad for one afternoon !"

"I see now," said Bodie. "Not a lot in one go, but do it regularly, and it will grow quickly, and the best part is that no-one suspects that it's organised."

"And no-one knows who's behind it," added Cowley, "Though we can make some good guesses."

"Well, now we've 'sussed' it," said Bodie eagerly, "Let's pick up a few of these punters, and find out."

"I don't think that would work," put in Doyle thoughtfully.

"Why not ?," demanded Bodie, eager as ever to get on with some positive steps.

"Several reasons," explained Doyle. "To start with, I don't suppose any of them met the 'big bosses', only their agents who were doing the recruiting. There might be a few who recognised the men they saw, and know who they work for, but they are all 'streetwise' enough to know how ruthless the top guys are. It's in their own interest to keep quiet about it, - it's safer.! And besides, a regular payment for an easy job means a lot to them."

"I agree with that," said Cowley. "You'd never get any of them to testify in court, and even if we could, the fancy lawyers these men would hire, would tear these 'little men' to shreds, and quickly destroy their credibility."

"So what can we do ?, " asked Doyle.

"I think it's going to have to be dogged enquiry and investigation, until we build up our own provable evidence," said Cowley pensively.

"If I might ask a question, sir," put in Bodie. "Is this really our kind of work ? I know it's illegal, but it's hardly a crime against innocents,

is it ?"

"I'm half-inclined to agree with you, Bodie," admitted Cowley. "But, on the other hand, we've already put in a lot of work, and a great many 'man-hours' on surveillance, and I'd rather like to see a return for all that effort, - and expense !."

"Me, too," said Doyle, "and besides, it's the honest race-horse owners, and the ordinary race-goers who are losing out – they're being cheated really, aren't they ?"

So the hard work began. Bodie and Doyle and several others spent their days talking to owners, trainers, track officials, jockeys, and bookies of all kinds. It was painstaking work, with a lot of negative results. They began to get an inkling of which men were behind the scheme, names that didn't surprise them, but getting any concrete proof was proving very difficult.

Then, quite suddenly, Doyle began to get answers that he wasn't expecting, telling him of big-money payouts to various people. A pattern began to emerge, and names were being named. Stimulated and encouraged by this, he began to push on to deeper and more searching enquiries, and started to feel he was getting somewhere at last. The name that was coming to the fore was Claydon.

Otis Claydon was an American by birth, but he had been in Britain for nearly 10 years. He owned several top class race-horses, spread out at different training stables, and, as Doyle began to find out, was the backing force behind a number of dodgy book-makers.

He was evidently pretty affluent, for he liked the 'good life', and lived pretty well. He was a big, florid man, powerful in appearance, and wherever he went he was always accompanied by a couple of 'heavies'.

Then, quite by chance, Doyle found out that it was this man who had rented the house in Streatham ! It was all coming together !

On an impulse, Doyle decided to go and have a closer look at the house, even though it appeared to be no longer in use.

He rather wished Bodie was with him, but his mate was at a session with the physiotherapist, dealing with a muscle-strain he had picked up during a strenuous work-out.

So he went alone, and parked his car as near as he could get to the house, which, because the street was busy, was 30 yards away, on the corner onto the main road.

Now, by sheer coincidence, it just happened that two other people were in Streatham High Street that afternoon, namely Ken and Roger Fieldman. It was a Thursday, so they were in Uncle Fred's charge, to satisfy their mother's anxiety. But he was inclined to think that his sister 'molly-coddled' her boys too much, mainly because they had lost their father three years before in a road accident. So he allowed them a little more latitude, realising that they were no longer babies, but clever, sensible boys.

Roger, who had some musical talent, and was learning to play the cello, had some birthday money that he wanted to spend on C.D.s by famous cellists. The best place to get what he was looking for was a specialist music shop in Streatham High Street, which sold items which were not available anywhere else.

Fred could have taken them there, of course, but as the shop was on a direct bus route from his home, he decided to let them go alone. They had promised to go straight there, and straight back when they'd found what they wanted, and he trusted them to keep their word.

The two boys had spent a pleasant time in the shop. Ken had found some cartoon stuff to look at, while Roger browsed happily through the excellent choices of works by cello maestros. At last he made his decision, and bought three special C.D.s. Satisfied with their afternoon, they were strolling back to the spot where they would catch the bus back to Uncle Fred's place.

Suddenly, Ken grabbed his brother's arm. "Look !," he said, pointing. "That's Mr. Doyle's car."

"Are you sure ?," questioned Roger uncertainly.

"Yes," replied Ken. "I remember car numbers. Besides, I can see him, walking down there."

Both boys looked, and sure enough, some distance down the side street, they spotted the dark curly head they recognised.

"Shall we wait a bit, and see if he comes back," suggested Ken eagerly.

"Oh, do you think we should ?," said Roger doubtfully. "He might be busy."

Then something happened that surprised them both. As Doyle was walking past, two men jumped from a parked car, and two more emerged from a nearby alley. One shot up the steps of the house across the road, and rapped hard on the door. The other three quickly surrounded Doyle, and pushed him in the same direction. He appeared reluctant to move, but was forcibly hustled up the steps and into the house. The door then closed behind the group.

Ken and Roger looked at each other with dismayed expressions.

"I think those men caught him," Ken said at last. "I don't think he wanted to go with them."

"No," agreed Roger, "We've got to help him !."

"How ?," asked Ken.

Roger thought for a bit, then had an idea. "We phone Uncle Fred," he decided, "and tell him. He'll know what to do."

The two boys shot to the nearest phone-box, and rang their uncle. Excitedly, they tumbled out the words to tell him what they'd seen.

Although very dismayed by their story, though he believed totally what they had said, Fred endeavoured to calm the boys down. His mind was racing furiously, but he steadied himself enough to give them some calm instructions.

"Now," he said, "Without making yourselves too obvious, go and wait near Ray's car. Soon some other cars will turn up. In one of them will be a tall dark-haired man, who is Doyle's team-mate, Bodie. He'll come to the car looking for you. He'll want you to tell him which house it was that Ray was taken into. Can you do that ?."

The boys said they could and left the phone-box. Fred got busy at once, calling a special number he knew, and making an urgent report.

Meanwhile, Doyle was not faring too well. The three men who had grabbed him and hustled him up the steps and into the house were far from gentle. His arm was already aching where one of them had wrenched it as he resisted, and that discomfort increased as he was forced into the front room, roughly pushed onto a chair, and had his hands pulled back and tied behind the back of it.

He was berating himself for the mistake he had made in assuming that because the 'recruiting' had stopped, that the house was no longer in use. And it looked as if he might pay heavily for his error, as he hadn't thought to let anyone know where he was going.

One of the 'heavies quickly rifled through their captive's pockets, and put his gun and his I.D. card onto a nearby desk.

At that moment, someone else came into the room. Doyle instantly recognised the big man. It was Claydon himself, the man he reckoned was behind the whole scam. Claydon gave Doyle a hard stare, then moved round to take a seat the other side of the desk. He picked up the I.D. card and studied it carefully.

"A C.I.5 man, eh," he said. "We've noticed you. Asking a lot of questions. Have you been getting any answers ?"

"Enough," snapped Doyle, and then wished he hadn't admitted that.

"Ah," said the big man, "Now, just how much do you know about us, I wonder?"

"As if I'm going to tell you," retorted Doyle defiantly. This earned him a fierce blow that jerked his head back painfully.

"That was stupid," said Claydon, with real menace in his voice. "My men have been watching too many gangster films recently, and they are dying to try out some of the things they've seen. I'm rather inclined to let them loose."

Though he tried not to show it, Doyle quailed inwardly. This was not going to be fun !

Doing as their uncle had told them, the two boys waited near Doyle's car. It wasn't long before another car shot round the corner, and found a place to park. Two men got out, a tall, dark-haired man, and a smaller man with darker skin. The tall man moved straight up to the boys.

"I'm Bodie," he said briskly, "Now, tell me again exactly what you told your Uncle Fred."

The boys did so, and he listened intently.

Good," he said, "Now tell me which house it was you saw Doyle taken into."

The boys made as if to take him down the road to show him, but he stopped them quickly.

"No," he said firmly, "Point it out from here. I don't want you anywhere near it."

Another car had turned up, and two more men had joined the dark-skinned man. All three came closer and listened carefully as the boys identified the house in question.

"You've done well, boys," said Bodie. "Now, I think you'd better get off home."

"Oh, must we," cried Roger. "We're worried about Mr. Doyle. We think he's in trouble."

"We like him," added Ken. "We'd like to know he's all right."

Bodie didn't have time to argue. He was worried about his friend too, and they had been very helpful.

"Here's what you can do," he said, fishing some coins from his pocket. "Phone your uncle, tell him I'm here now, and that someone will bring you home later. Then come back to the car, but not one step nearer ! Understand ?"

The boys nodded and hurried off, impressed by Bodie's forceful manner.

Bodie turned to his men, patiently waiting for his instructions.

"Jax and I will take the front," he said. "You two get round the back. Let me know when you are in position, and we'll all go in together."

All four moved off. Two went towards the alley that led to the back ways of the row of houses. Bodie and Jax strolled in pretended leisurely fashion down the street, until they were level with the designated house, and waited for the signal from the others. When it came, Bodie uttered just one word.

"Go !, " he snapped.

He and Jax shot across the road, and up the steps. Two shots and a hefty kick made short work of the door, and they were in !

One man appeared in the doorway of the room on the right, and one on the upstairs landing. As both were brandishing guns, Bodie and Jax did not hesitate. Two quick shots dealt with them.

Another man came into view at the end of the hallway, hesitated, then turned back, and was quickly met and disarmed by the two agents entering from the back.

Bodie and Jax shot into the front room on the right. Bodie took in the situation with a quick glance. He saw his mate, tied to a chair, and looking rather the worse for wear, and a big man sitting behind a desk.

There was another man in the room, but he had dropped his gun, and had his hands high in the air, so Jax moved round to deal with him.

As Bodie moved forward, with his eyes mainly on his ill-treated friend, the big man saw a chance. He grabbed the gun lying on the desk before him, and pointed it at the helpless prisoner in the chair. Perhaps he had some idea that eliminating him might cancel the evidence he had amassed.

But Bodie was quicker ! Two shots rang out simultaneously, but only one reached its target, for in a desperate move, Doyle had toppled his chair sideways, and had fallen to the floor.

But Bodie hadn't missed ! The big man, Otis Claydon, lay sprawled across the desk. He had played his last gamble, and lost !

Holstering his gun, Bodie hurried to help his fallen friend. As he fumbled to undo the ropes securing Doyle's hands, he felt a sudden pang of alarm. His friend wasn't moving ! But as he thrust the chair aside and reached out, he was rewarded with a stirring of the limp form, and a grunt of pain. He quickly helped his mate into a sitting position.

"Are you hit, Ray ?," he asked anxiously, as he saw a look of discomfort on his mate's face and a trickle of blood on his forehead.

"No," replied Doyle re-assuringly, "He missed, but I cracked my head on the leg of the desk, I'm afraid."

Bodie pushed back some of the dark curls, to reveal a nasty cut just on the hairline. "Not too bad," he diagnosed, "May need a couple of stitches though."

Doyle pulled a face at the prospect, as Bodie used his strong arm to help him to his feet.

"How on earth did you find me ?," he asked.

"Well, that's quite a story," replied Bodie, and went on to tell his amazed friend all about it.

Leaving his other two men to deal with the prisoners and the bodies, and a special forensic team which had just turned up, to conduct a detailed search of the premises, Bodie and Jax escorted Doyle back towards the cars.

From a distance, Ken and Roger saw them coming, and were pleased to recognise the one in the middle of the trio, though as the group neared they were concerned to see red marks on his face and a smear of blood on his forehead.

But Doyle smiled cheerfully at them. "I'm all right, lads," he said, "and very grateful !"

Bodie took charge in spite of his mate's protests. "Jax," he ordered, "Take Doyle's car, and take him to get that cut seen to."

He gave Doyle a gentle push into Jax's care.

"Go on," he said, "I'll see these boys home, then we'll meet up at Headquarters, and bring Cowley up to date."

"Tell Fred I'm all right, and I'll be in touch," said Doyle, as he submitted to their fussing.

Bodie took the two boys back to a concerned Fred, who was very relieved to hear the outcome of it all. When Bodie had gone, he spoke very seriously to his nephews.

"Don't talk about this to anyone but me," he said. Then with a grin, he added, "Especially don't tell your mother, or she won't let you come to me again."

Doyle's injury was quickly dealt with, and he and Jax returned to meet up with Bodie in Cowley's office. Doyle gave a detailed report on everything he had learned.

But with Claydon gone, the matter was virtually wrapped up. There were a few loose ends to be dealt with, but these could be handed over now to the police, and to the various regulatory bodies of the world of horse-racing. It no longer merited C.I.5's attention.

The following day, Friday, dawned as a very wet and windy one, so Ken and Roger resigned themselves to a day indoors, playing one of the board games their uncle kept for such occasions. They didn't really mind, as they enjoyed such days as a change from days out.

They had just cleared the big kitchen table, and had got out the various boxes from the hall cupboard, when the door-bell rang. To save Uncle Fred's legs, Roger dashed to open the door, and was very surprised to find a familiar figure on the door-step.

"Hi, Roger," said Doyle, "Can I come in ?"

As he followed him back to the kitchen, Roger looked anxiously at him. Apart from a glimpse of some nasty-looking stitches just under his hair, and a slight redness to his cheek, he looked fine.

Doyle greeted Fred and Ken warmly, and looked at the table. "Oh, Scrabble, good," he said, "Can I play ?"

He was off-duty until an appointment with their own medical man in the afternoon. He was hoping this would just be a formality as he felt fine. But rules had to be obeyed.

All four of them sat round the table, and were soon engrossed in the game. Then Ken caused an argument. He wanted to use a convenient and unobstructed 'p' to put the words 'cops'.

"I don't think you can have that," protested Fred. "It's slang."

"If you've got an 'e'," suggested Doyle, "You could put 'copse'. That's a word."

"Is it ?," said Ken doubtfully, "What's it mean ?"

"It's trees in a wood," replied Doyle, "ones that are cut regularly, - coppiced is the correct term, I think."

"But 'cop' is a real word," protested Ken, "You're a cop, aren't you ?."

Doyle exchanged a long look with Fred, who nodded slightly to answer the unspoken question in his friend's eyes.

"Right, boys," he said, "I think it's time for a little honesty. You probably saved my life yesterday, so you've earned it."

So he and Fred together took time to explain in the simplest terms they could manage, exactly who Doyle was and what he did. The boys were impressed. As they finished, Doyle spoke to them seriously.

"You do understand, I hope," he said, "that this is our secret. It's not something to be talked about."

The boys nodded solemnly. It had been an exciting episode and one they would remember for a long time, but they would only talk about it to their uncle.

Trying to ease the tension out of the situation, Doyle drew their attention back to the game.

"I've got a good word," he said, "Should score me some points. It's what you did yesterday, and I'm very grateful."

And with a smile, he used the 'c' of the word 'copse', to neatly insert the word 'rescue'.