Cherchez la Femme.
( Find the Lady
George Cowley, head of C.I.5, strolled into his office mid-afternoon, hung up his coat and hat, and settled down at his desk. He was in an extremely mellow mood.
Although there was always work for his intrepid force to do, this morning had brought nothing particularly urgent onto his desk, so he had decided to allow himself the rare luxury of a leisurely lunch at his club.
As he entered, he had encountered a friend of long standing, a certain Lord Fenimore. He had a good-looking young man with him, whom he had introduced as his grandson, Charles, and he invited Cowley to join them for lunch. Soon all three were settled at a pleasant corner table, and had given their orders to the attentive waiter.
Lord Fenimore started the conversation with an explanation. "I'm treating my grandson," he said, "as a little celebration. He's an actor, George, and you know what that profession is like. You need a bit of luck, and he's just managed to secure a good lead role in a new film."
He stopped and smiled at the eager young face opposite him. "You tell him, Charles," he said.
"Well, sir," began the young actor, "They're going to make a film all about Rolly Ferdinand."
"Whatever for ?," exclaimed Cowley, startled. "The man was an out and out villain.!"
Charles looked rather taken aback by Cowley's vehemence. "He was a colourful character, sir," he protested, "And it's thought that his 'play-boy' lifestyle and dramatic end will make good cinema."
Cowley suddenly realised that it would be unkind to dampen the youngster's enthusiasm, so he suppressed what he'd been about to say. "Well, it wouldn't be to my taste," he compromised, "But then I rarely go to the cinema these days."
Lord Fenimore looked on and smiled to himself at his friend's forbearance. When he'd introduced Cowley, he'd done so merely by name. He knew it was unnecessary to broadcast what his friend did. But all the same, he was aware that Cowley knew more about Ferdinand than Charles would ever learn, and none of it good.!
So he cleverly changed the subject, and the rest of the meal was passed in pleasant, less-controversial conversation. Cowley had enjoyed the splendid food, and the company, and had returned to his office in a mellow mood.
But the piece of information that had so surprised him, was still in the back of his mind. Which explains why, when one of his best teams, Bodie and Doyle, came into his office with the reports on their morning's work, his first remark to them was about it.
"What does the name Rolly Ferdinand mean to you ?," he asked.
Bodie looked rather blank, but Doyle was quick to answer. "Oh, I remember him," he said. "It was just before I left the police to join C.I 5. He was a complete 'pain in the neck' to us. He was one of those villains who we were quite sure was behind a great many vile activities, but proving it was a different matter."
"Yes," agreed Cowley. "We had our eye on him too."
"We'd have nailed him in another six months or so, I'm sure," went on Doyle. "But then he died."
"I remember now," put in Bodie. "It was a massive pile-up in Hampstead. At least half a dozen cars involved, _ some caught fire."
"Yes, that was it," confirmed Cowley. "Five fatalities, including Ferdinand, and several injured."
"I remember the funeral," said Doyle. "A most elaborate affair, hundreds went. It must have cost a bomb."
Then he had a thought. "What has brought it to your mind now, sir ?," he enquired curiously. "After all this time."
So Cowley explained."I had lunch today with a pleasant young man, Lord Fenimore's grandson, who is going to play him, in a film they are planning to make."
"A film about Ferdinand !" exclaimed Doyle incredulously. He thought for a moment, and then added. "Well, I suppose he was a 'larger than life' character, with his life-style, and the hordes of adoring women he went about with. But I hope they don't make him out to be a 'Robin Hood' style hero, for he certainly wasn't that !."
"That's just what I thought when I heard," said Cowley. "For all his show, he was a vicious crook, though they'll probably gloss over that. Still," he concluded, "It's none of our business, so let's get on with something that is."
So that is just what they did, and the whole subject would have been forgotten as they concentrated on current tasks, if it hadn't been for something that happened a fortnight later.
Cowley returned to his office one morning, after a short meeting with the Minister, to find a message waiting, asking him to contact his friend, Lord Fenimore, as soon as was convenient. After dealing with a couple of important issues, Cowley found time to return his friend's call.
"Oh, George, glad to hear from you," said Lord Fenimore. "I've got a problem. Would it be possible to meet me at the club ? I'd rather not reveal it over the phone."
As there was nothing pressing, Cowley agreed, and arranged to meet him, at 11 o'clock in the club lounge. He was a couple of minutes late, and as he joined his friend, he was a little surprised to see his grandson there too, and another older man. He noticed that the young man was not the eager, excited actor he had met the last time. In fact, he looked decidedly stressed and worried.
Cowley led the way to a secluded corner, as he sensed he was about to hear something important. When they were settled he started things off by saying, "Now, tell me what your problem is."
Lord Fenimore introduced the other man as a Mr. Forbes. "Mr Forbes is the producer of the film that Charles told you about last time we met," he said. "You can tell Mr. Cowley," he encouraged the worried-looking man.
Mr. Forbes produced some letters from an inside pocket, and handed the first to Cowley. "This came soon after news got out about the proposed film," he said.
Cowley unfolded the paper, and read the printed words.
WHY ARE YOU MAKING A FILM ABOUT ROLLY FERDINAND ? HE WAS NO HERO ! HE WAS JUST A NASTY CROOK !
"Well," said Cowley, "That was my initial thought too."
Forbes looked a little uncomfortable. "We do know that really," he admitted, "but it was thought that his elaborate life-style, and his dramatic end would make good cinema, a bit of artistic licence, maybe."
Cowley didn't comment further, and Forbes handed him the second sheet of paper.
"But then we got this," he said.
Cowley looked at it carefully, and frowned at what it said.
YOUR FILM WILL BE A SHAM. FERDINAND IS NOT
DEAD ! IT WAS ALL A SET- UP. ASK LILY !
No wonder the man's worried, thought Cowley.
"Could it be true ?," asked Forbes anxiously.
"It's possible, I suppose," Cowley replied slowly, "Though it wasn't suspected at the time."
"I don't know what to do now," said Forbes in a very agitated tone. "Plans are well in hand. A lot of money is already involved."
"I can see your problem," agreed Cowley.
"Do I stop, or go on ?," queried Forbes.
Cowley thought long and hard. If Ferdinand had pulled a fast one, when both the police and C.I.5 were trying hard to bring him to account, both forces would be very keen to catch up with him. At last he made a decision.
"I should go on with your plans," he advised. "I shall put some enquiries in hand urgently. And after all," he added, "If it is true, and, more importantly, can be proved to be true, it will give your film a dramatic twist ending."
He noticed the man's expression as he said this, and watched as the idea took root. Forbes' eyes began to light up, and he stopped looking so worried. What a mercenary creature, thought Cowley in disgust. He's already seeing better box-office prospects.
He left then, taking the two letters with him, and returned to his office in a very thoughtful frame of mind. He relayed an order that Bodie and Doyle should report to him, as soon as they returned from their present task.
Half-an-hour later, a tap on the door announced their arrival. He showed them the two letters, and awaited their comments.
"Well, this one's true," said Bodie, pointing to the first letter, "but that one ?"
"It could be true," said Doyle thoughtfully. "And if it is, it needs acting upon. Four innocent people died in that pile-up, and if it was staged, that's tantamount to murder !"
"I agree," said Cowley grimly.
"I suppose it couldn't be an elaborate publicity stunt ?," suggested Bodie, "to draw attention to the film."
"That thought had crossed my mind too," said Cowley. "But if that's the case, someone's going to be very sorry."
He means it too, thought Doyle. Cowley got very angry if he thought his force was being used or exploited, and he'd come down like a ton of bricks on the culprit.
"Suggestions as to where to start ?," asked their boss, ready to assess their replies.
"I'll go to my old sergeant," said Doyle, "and see what's on the records. See if I can find a 'Lily' in Rolly's old harem."
"I'll check up on the details of the crash," said Bodie. "See if there's anything doubtful about it."
Good ideas, thought Cowley. Both these men were clever and resourceful.
"Well, off you go," he said briskly. "Get on with it."
The pair went first to the Records Department, to see exactly what it had on Ferdinand. Doyle already knew most of it, as he'd been working on it while he was still in the police, but Bodie had been out of the country, in Africa, for most of the time. So it was new to him. He picked up a photograph which showed a handsome dark-haired man.
"Good-looking bloke, wasn't he ?," he commented.
"Very," agreed Doyle, "but flashy with it. He charmed the ladies, though. Everywhere he went he always had several in tow, young actresses, models, some from the oldest profession, too."
"How did he support his extravagant life-style ?," asked Bodie.
"We never knew for sure," replied Doyle, "but we suspected him of a lot of devious and profitable activities. There always seemed to be plenty of money. He lived in a lavish penthouse at the top of an office block, and ran an expensive, flashy Porsche. He had a man called Rutford, who ran the flat for him, a sort of butler, valet and housekeeper rolled into one."
Bodie was reading some of the copious notes. "He seems to have come on the scene suddenly, about seven years before his spectacular exit," he said. "Where was he before that ?"
"We never did find out," replied Doyle. "He had a slight accent, which suggested America, but every effort to trace him there came up blank."
Bodie tidied the notes together, and replaced them. "I'm off to look at details of the crash," he said. "Where are you going ?"
"To see Sergeant Wingford," replied Doyle, "to try to get a lead on 'Lily, though I don't remember her."
They parted company, and went off separately to their chosen tasks. But when they met up later to exchange information, neither had had a great deal of success.
Bodie had gone to see what he could find out about the accident. The man he met was friendly, chatty and very helpful.
"I remember that crash," he said. "About three years ago, wasn't it ? Very nasty. The worst we ever had in that area. Six cars involved, as I remember, and several caught fire. Five fatalities too, and three of the bodies, including Ferdinand, so badly burned it was a job to get them identified."
While he was talking, he had been rooting out the records, and produced plenty of notes and photographs for Bodie to look at. But although these were graphic, they weren't a great deal of help. There's not a lot to be gained from a static picture, after all. Detailed examination of the wreckage was the only thing that would have told him anything. And although the cars would have been examined to determine the cause of the accident, those reports were three years old, and the actual wrecks had long gone to the scrap-heap.
So he was forced to give up on that, as the final report had declared the crash as an accident, with no-one clearly to be blamed.
Then came a question he'd been hoping to avoid.
"Why is C.I.5 interested in a crash that happened three years ago ?," the man asked curiously.
"Oh, it's something to do with insurance," said Bodie vaguely, and forestalled any further trouble by putting a question of his own.
"Who identified Ferdinand's body ?. Do you know ?," he asked.
"I think it was his man, Rutford," was the answer, "but you'd get more details about that from the pathologist who dealt with the bodies. I can give you a name for him, but no more."
"That'll do, thank you," said Bodie. "I'll find him."
With a few enquiries he did so, but it wasn't much help, as the man only had the vaguest memories of the case, and his notes, when he found them, were basic and short. All five deaths were recorded as caused by multiple impact injuries, with three having been further aggravated by fire. Those bodies had been identified mainly by fragments of clothes and jewellery, and details of the cars that were involved. He took the little he had learned back to Headquarters, and put it down in a report.
Doyle meanwhile had gone to find an old friend, Sergeant Wingford, who was a bit surprised at the information he was asked to dig out.
"That's old stuff, isn't it ?," said Wingford. "I know we were trying hard to nail Ferdinand, but his death put an end to our enquiries. It was over three years ago."
"Yes, I know," agreed Doyle, "But we're trying to trace one of Ferdinand's lady-friends, a girl called Lily."
"Don't remember a Lily," said the sergeant thoughtfully, "but I'll get the records out and we can have a look."
The two men searched through the notes, but couldn't find any girl called Lily.
"I'd better have a list of all their names, and last-known addresses," said Doyle at last. "Then I can ask them if they know a 'Lily'."
He took this back to the office and compared notes with Bodie. "I guess we'll have to chase up all the names on this list," said Doyle. "Though after three years some of them may have moved on."
"And we should talk to this man Rutford too," suggested Bodie.
"Oh, I did learn something about him," exclaimed Doyle, recalling the one good piece of information his old friend had passed on.
"He's still at the penthouse," he said, "He runs it now, as a rather exclusive hotel, and pays for it by hiring it out, plus his valuable services, to visitors, mainly from abroad. I believe he's well-known and respected. Various Embassies use his services, as he's efficient and discreet."
"Could all be a front," said the suspicious Bodie.
"We'll go and see in the morning," replied Doyle. "Now, we're off-duty in ten minutes. Got anything planned for this evening ?"
Bodie responded eagerly, and the pair spent a very pleasant evening with a couple of young ladies they knew.
But both were in promptly next morning, ready for another day of enquiries.
"Let's go and see Rutford first," suggested Doyle. They went together, parking their car in the underground car-park, and taking the lift up to the penthouse.
They pressed the bell at the side of the door, and waited. There was a slight delay, and then the door was opened, by a small man in his shirt sleeves, almost swamped by a large striped apron.
They produced their I.D cards, and asked politely if they might have a few words.
"Certainly, gentlemen," said Rutford, and ushered them in.
"I was just completing the washing-up," he said. "If you will wait in the lounge, sirs, I'll join you in a moment."
He showed them into a large airy room, and departed, presumably towards the kitchen. He re-joined them a moment later, having shed his apron, and now wearing a neat jacket over dark pin-stripe trousers.
"How can I help you, gentlemen ?," he asked politely.
Bodie and Doyle were secretly impressed. The man was the epitome of an English butler, a veritable 'Jeeves', in fact.
"It's about Rolly Ferdinand," began Bodie, but was interrupted.
"But the gentleman no longer lives here," said Rutford. "Sadly, he died three years ago, in a car accident."
"Yes, we know that," replied Doyle. "That's what we wanted to talk to you about."
Rutford looked puzzled.
"You identified the body didn't you ?," said Bodie.
"Yes, sir, I did," replied the little man, "With great difficulty, I'm afraid, for the body was badly burned."
"How exactly did you identify him ?," asked Doyle.
"The police came here, because they identified Mr. Ferdinand's Porsche, and that gave them this address. They took me to the morgue, - it was a dreadful experience." His face clouded with returning memories.
"How did you know it was him ?," pressed Doyle.
"Small details," responded Rutford. "One shoe, very expensive Italian leather, part of a silk shirt I'd ironed the night before, his Rolex watch, and a gold ring with a diamond set in black onyx, - he always wore that."
"Did they show you the body ?," asked Doyle, beginning to regret having to press the man, as he was beginning to look quite distressed.
"Only a quick glimpse, sir, - it was horrible," replied Rutford. "But I saw the dark hair and one ear.- it was him, sir, I'm sure." The man looked genuinely upset.
"Thank you," said Doyle, and gestured to Bodie to leave. Rutford showed them out.
As they went down in the lift Doyle gave his thought-out comment. "I think he's genuine," he said. "I don't think he knows anything."
"I'm inclined to agree," responded Bodie, "but I'll get a check run on his background anyway."
This was done in the next few days, and proved that Rutford's character and references were impeccable. He had worked for a great many years for a titled family in Scotland, who had been sorry to lose him when he sought to come down to London, to be near his widowed mother, who was not in good health.
After Ferdinand's death, as there appeared to be no relative to claim the flat, his erstwhile Scottish employer had used his considerable influence to enable Rutford to continue in the penthouse, running it almost as a small exclusive hotel, just as Doyle had been told by Wingford.
As they walked towards their car, Bodie made a comment. "Perhaps we'll have more luck with the girls," he said cheerfully. Something in the tone of his mate's voice, made Doyle look at him, and he caught the gleam in his eye.
"I've encountered most of these girls, years ago," said Doyle, "and some of them are not the kind you'd want to get to know."
"All the more fun," said Bodie with a grin.
"You behave yourself !," said Doyle in mock admonition.
"Or what ?," asked Bodie cheekily. "Will 'goody-goody' Doyle tell teacher ?"
Doyle threw him a withering look as they climbed into the car. But such facetious banter was part of the special rapport that these two shared. No offence was meant, and none was taken either.
They returned to base to collect Doyle's car. They had decided that it wouldn't take two of them to interview the girls, and it would be much quicker if they divided the work. So they split the list between them. Bodie would start at the top and work down, and Doyle would begin at the bottom and work up. Eventually they would cover them all, and meet somewhere in the middle to compare notes. So they parted company and set off.
Doyle's first name was that of an actress, May Lister. He tracked her down to a theatre in the West End, where she had a small part in a play due to open the following week.
His timing was fortuitous. She had come in early, to study her lines before the afternoon's rehearsal. Doyle asked politely if he might have a few words, and she led him to the presently unoccupied 'green room'.
He came straight to the point. "You used to know Rolly Ferdinand, didn't you ?," he asked
"Oh, that's history," she said with a laugh. "But, yes, I did,"
A reminiscent look came into her eyes. "I was not quite 18 when I first met Rolly," she said, "and I was completely dazzled by him, infatuated, you might say. I used to follow him around like a little puppy-dog, grateful for any smiles or kind words."
Doyle could visualize the picture. Rolly certainly had had 'charisma'.
"But then I grew up," she continued, with a wry smile. "I soon realised that there wasn't a sincere atom in his whole body ! But I stayed around, for he was always in the public eye, and in the acting profession, almost anything that gets you noticed is good publicity."
Doyle nodded understandingly.
"But I began to realise that behind the scenes he was into some very nasty lines of business. He was a rat !," she added vehemently.
"Yes, we knew that," admitted Doyle, "but we couldn't quite prove it."
"But why are you interested in him now ?," asked the bright girl. "He's been dead for three years."
Doyle prevaricated a little. "We're actually looking for one of the girls he knew – someone called Lily."
May creased her brow in thought. "I don't remember a Lily," she said. Then she had an idea. "Maybe it was a middle name," she suggested. She spotted the list in Doyle's hand.
"May I ?," she asked, and they scanned down the list together.
"You won't find this one," she said, pointing to one of the names. "She married a talent scout, and went off to Hollywood – lucky girl."
She indicated another name. "I'm afraid she died," she said, "in a plane crash in France, about a year ago."
Doyle put a cross against those two names.
"Well," said May at last, "None of those I knew had the name Lily, first or second name, so I can't help you there."
Doyle smiled at her."Thank you anyway, for trying, and for the information you have given me – it's been useful," he said. He wished her good luck with the coming play, and left.
As he went back to his car, he looked for the next name on his list.
It was Rita Stevens.
Recollections of the work he had done in the police came back to him. If her name's there, he thought, so is Susie-May's, - they were always together. He looked for the second name.
Oh, no ! It was the second name on Bodie's share of the list. He's probably tracked her down, and is there now, he thought. Oh, dear, If Bodie's trying to cope with both of them, he'll be well out of his depth !
He grinned at the thought, then relented. "I'd better go and rescue him," he said aloud as he started up his car and set off. His knowledge, gained while he had been in the police, meant that he knew exactly where to go. As he eased his car into a convenient space, he spotted his friend's car further up the street. My guess was right, he thought.
He entered the sleazy venue, and stood for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting. He spotted his mate's broad-shouldered frame, seated at a table in a darkish corner, and moved in that direction. He smiled to himself as he approached.
Bodie had a girl seated either side of him, and, mistresses of their trade, they were practically all over him. He watched Rita stroking his friend's arm, and smiling provocatively. He saw Bodie's attempts to push her away, and grinned.
Bodie was feeling most uncomfortable. He was trying to ask important questions, but they weren't being too helpful.
Suddenly a voice came over his shoulder. "Put him down, Rita," it ordered. "You don't know where he's been."
Rita swung round in surprise. "Ray Doyle !," she exclaimed. "Now what do you want ?."
"Same as my mate, I expect – answers !," replied Doyle. "We're looking for a girl called Lily, who used to know Rolly Ferdinand."
But the girls were no help. They didn't know any girl who'd been in Rolly's entourage who had answered to the name Lily. They tried turning their blandishments on Doyle, but he wasn't having any. He knew them too well !
So Doyle extricated his mate and they left quickly. Bodie didn't actually say anything, but he looked relieved.
"It's my fault," said Doyle as they got outside. "I should have had a closer look at the list before we started, and we could have organized it a bit better. Let's find somewhere for a coffee and do it now."
They put their heads together, and ticked off those they had seen, or knew about. Doyle studied the remaining names.
"I'll take these two," he said, pointing. "They are both 'hookers', but from a different stable, more 'up-market'. The rest are, or were, models or actresses. So I suggest you contact model agencies, and see if you can track down any of them, and I'll have a go at theatrical agents."
"And we'd better keep in touch, so that we can tick off any that we find," said Bodie.
So they parted company and continued with their task in a more organized that it did them a lot of good. By the end of the day they had covered all the names on the list, but not one of those they had spoken to knew of any girl called Lily.
Rather disappointed by their unsuccessful day, they returned to Headquarters and wrote up their reports.
As they went off-duty, and walked out to their cars, Doyle posed a question to his mate. "Are we calling Joanna and her friend tonight ?," he enquired. "They are good fun."
"Not tonight, Josephine !," Bodie answered humorously. "I've got another date."
"Anyone I know ?," asked Doyle
"No, it isn't," replied Bodie, and refused to be drawn further, as they parted company and made their separate ways home.
In actual fact, he had a date with one of the models he had met earlier that afternoon. She had attracted him immediately, and had responded easily to his questioning. She was a little older than some of the others, nearer his own age. She was polished and sophisticated, as well as having very striking looks.
He had a very entertaining evening, and made a date to see her again, none of which he revealed to his team-mate the following morning, in spite of his nosey and persistent questions.
They reported to Cowley. He was reading their reports of the previous day's work, and looked at the papers with a frown. "I don't see what more we can do on this," he said thoughtfully. "And we've other, more pressing work needing our attention."
"Perhaps there will be another letter," suggested Bodie, "with more details."
"That would be helpful," Cowley agreed.
Although he and Bodie were soon busy on other tasks, their failure irked Doyle, and was frequently on his mind. He found a moment to see his old sergeant again, but he could add no further names to the list.
One morning, on a sudden impulse, as he was in the right area, he decided to pay another call on May Lister, the actress who had been first on his list. She had impressed him, as someone who had moved on from the ephemeral Rolly years, and was now a serious career woman.
He was lucky enough to find her in the theatre, as he had done last time. To his surprise she greeted him eagerly.
"I was hoping you would come back," she said. "Later that day, I did recall something that might help, but I didn't know how to contact you."
That was an oversight on my part, thought Doyle to himself.
She led him to an empty dressing-room, made coffee for them both, and proceeded to tell him what she had remembered.
"It was a miserable wet afternoon," she began, "Several of us were relaxing in Rolly's flat, and he was being his usual entertaining self, - he was fun. Then another girl joined us. She was an aspiring actress, very elated because she'd just come from her first audition for a part in a play. She was very excited and wanted to tell everybody."
Doyle could visualise the scene easily.
"Rolly was teasing her," May went on. "She was originally from the Channel Islands, her parents living in Jersey, I think. So he was telling us all about a famous actress who came from Jersey, called Lily Langtry, and how she became known as the 'Jersey Lily'."
Doyle nodded. He had heard of her, of course.
"So he gave her a cuddle, and said 'I shall have to call you 'my little Jersey Lily'. He was very fond of giving nicknames to the girls, especially those who shared his bed."
She flashed a look at Doyle. "I never did, by the way !," she exclaimed fiercely.
"Do you recall her name ?," asked Doyle eagerly.
"I've been trying to remember," she said with a frown. "Mary something, I think. She never did become an actress. She wasn't that good. But she went into modelling, and I think she's done well there."
Doyle produced the list, which luckily was still in his pocket. She scanned it quickly, and pounced on a name.
"That's it," she declared. "Mary Thompsett, though I believe she calls herself just 'Marla' now."
Doyle marked the name. It was one of the girls Bodie had contacted.
"None of the other girls remembered that," he commented.
"No, come to think of it," she said, "They'd gone to the kitchen to make us all some lunch."
"Thank you for your help," said Doyle. "It will give me something else to check out."
"Why the interest, after all this time ?," asked the bright girl.
Doyle flashed a smile at her. "Classified," he said, and left quickly.
But when he and Bodie were back in Cowley's office, reporting on their current work, he took the opportunity to tell them about it. He was surprised by the look that came over his mate's face, a rather uncomfortable look.
"What is it, Bodie ?," he demanded.
Bodie gave a rather abashed, wry smile. "Actually," he confessed, "I've been dating her. We've been out a few times."
Cowley and Doyle stared at the discomfited man.
"You did tell her we were looking for someone called Lily, didn't you ?," said Doyle.
"Of course I did," responded Bodie. "That was the first question I asked, but she said she didn't know anyone called Lily."
"I think we'll have to talk to her again," declared Doyle.
Cowley interposed. "What do you know about her, Bodie," he demanded.
"Well," replied Bodie, "She calls herself Marla now. She's a very successful model, has her own flat, and an expensive car . And pretty expensive tastes," he added ruefully.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I've really rather gone off her, on better acquaintance. She's very full of herself, and she's not always available either. She goes off to the Channel Islands nearly every weekend."
"She has parents living in Jersey, I understand," said Doyle.
"Yes, you said that," replied Bodie. "But I'm sure it's Guernsey she goes to."
"I'll get that checked out," said Cowley, "But talk to her again."
They managed to do that the next afternoon. Luckily they had found her at home. Secretly flattered by the attention, she invited them in, and organized coffee for them all, as they sat down in the lounge.
Bodie came straight to the point. "First time we met," he said, "I asked you if you knew a girl that Rolly knew, called Lily, and you said you didn't. But we've since found out that he called you 'Lily', sometimes."
"His 'little Jersey Lily'," added Doyle.
"Good gracious," she exclaimed, "I'd forgotten all about that – it was seven or eight years ago."
But Doyle had seen the start the question had given her, and the sudden quickly-concealed look of fear that crossed her face. She rapidly changed the subject, and insisted on showing them some of the pictures in her portfolio, very poised and elegant.
As they left the flat and walked down the steps to their car, Doyle turned to his friend. "She was lying through her teeth, Bodie," he said. "She knows something she's not telling."
"I agree," said Bodie. "She needs checking out."
They reported the whole conversation to their boss, who listened thoughtfully. "I'll get someone to track her movements," he said. "But you two leave her alone," he ordered. "Let her think you believed her."
About a week later, after a weekend, the pair were summoned to Cowley's office. As he motioned them to sit down, he opened a file on his desk.
"An interesting report, gentlemen," he began. "I had Marla followed last weekend. She didn't go to her parents in Jersey, but as you said, Bodie, she went to Guernsey, where she spent most of her time in a fancy club, which has a casino and a pricey restaurant etc. She was constantly in the company of the owner, a man called Ricky Forester.
"R.F.," exclaimed Doyle, "Co-incidence ?. You don't think…..?"
"Here's a picture," said Cowley, handing it to them. It showed Marla dancing with a tall, good-looking blond man. He followed it up with the one of Ferdinand taken from the Records
"It's not the same man," declared Bodie emphatically.
"Oh, I don't know," said Doyle thoughtfully. "Hair-colour is different, of course, but that's an easy thing to change. Build's about right, and style."
"But the face is different," expostulated Bodie. "It isn't him."
Doyle held the photos close together, and frowned in concentration. "There are differences," he admitted, "but the basic shape is similar."
Then an idea flashed into his mind, a memory from some weeks ago. "There was an article I read in an old Interpol up-date, that we keep getting regularly. It said they'd been keeping a suspicious eye on a clinic in Switzerland. It was thought that the surgeons there had perfected a way of slightly altering the details of finger-prints, and it was offering that service, and cosmetic surgery, to very influential crooks from America, at exorbitant prices, of course."
Cowley looked thoughtful."We need someone who knew Rolly well, to go and have a close look," he said.
"I'd know if it was him," volunteered Doyle. "I encountered him lots of times."
"No, it can't be you," vetoed Cowley. "He might just as easily recognise you, and be alerted."
"Me, then," suggested Bodie.
"No, not you either," replied Cowley. "Firstly, you never met him, and secondly, if Marla were there and saw you, that would blow it, too."
"His man, Rutford ?," was Bodie's next suggestion.
"We can't be sure he knows nothing," said Cowley, "and anyway, if it is Ferdinand, he'd recognise him at once."
"I know," exclaimed Doyle. "May Lister.! She told me she was a fluffy blonde teenager when she knew Rolly, and now she's a serious actress and looks quite different. And she's a sensible girl, who soon saw through Ferdinand, and knew he was a crook."
"I'd like to talk to her," said Cowley. "Can you bring her in.?"
So Doyle did just that. Cowley had a quiet talk with May Lister, was greatly impressed with her sensible attitude, and took her into his confidence, telling her what it was all about.
She quickly agreed to help, and soon it was all arranged. The very next weekend, when Marla went aboard the flight to Guernsey, she was followed up the steps, at a discreet distance behind, by May Lister, attentively escorted by the suave C.I.5 agent, Murphy.
"Murphy will look after her," said Doyle happily, when he heard about the plans. "She'll have a very nice weekend. He's a gentleman."
"Aren't we ?," complained Bodie.
"Not really," said Doyle with a grin.
"I can't wait till they get back, to hear what she has to say," he added.
After the weekend, the two of them were in Cowley's office, talking over a current task with him, when a tap at the door announced the arrival of Miss Lister and Murphy, who had come straight from the airport.
Murphy looked pleased with himself in his quiet way, but May Lister was excited and animated.
"Ricky Forester is Rolly Ferdinand !," she declared firmly, addressing Cowley. "I'll swear to it, sir. He's changed his appearance a bit, I know, but it's to do with body language and little mannerisms. As an actress, I've studied these, so I'm absolutely sure it's him."
The three men who'd been waiting, half-expecting this news, exchanged pleased glances.
"He didn't recognise you ?," queried Cowley anxiously.
"No, he didn't, I'm sure," replied May. "Neither did Marla. She passed quite close to me, and didn't give me a second glance."
"She seemed very intimate with Forester," added Murphy, "and went off with him every evening."
Cowley thanked May for her help, and promised they would keep in touch, and inform her of developments. He arranged for Murphy to escort her home.
After they'd gone, Bodie turned eagerly to his boss. "What do we do now, sir ?," he demanded. "Go in and grab him ?."
Cowley actually smiled at his man's excited tone. "You'd like that, wouldn't you ?," he said indulgently.
"Yes, we would," confirmed Doyle, equally eager.
"Then I'm doubly sorry I can't authorise it," said Cowley firmly. "But it'll have to be done by the book, with proper consultation between our police and those in Guernsey. Mind you, if he came back to London," went on Cowley. "But I don't suppose he will. He's got a good set-up going where he is. However, I'll get the right procedures in hand as soon as I can."
The pair facing him looked very disappointed.
"But something you can do," he said. "You can pick up Marla. She's lied to you all along, and she's an accessory, at least."
Bodie and Doyle cheered up at that, and left as fast as they could.
"She's a devious bitch," declared Bodie, "Let's go get her !"
But when they rang the doorbell at Marla's flat, they were disappointed to get no response. However, as they stood there wondering action to take next, a taxi drew up to the kerbside, and Marla alighted. She'd been on a later flight than Murphy and Miss Lister.
She paid the cabby, and carrying her bag, came up the steps towards them.
"We'd like a word," said Doyle, while Bodie cheekily added, "Had a good weekend, Marla ?."
Clever actress that she was in some ways, she concealed her dismay, and welcomed them in. "Go into the living-room," she said in a friendly enough manner. "I'll just dump this bag and change. Then I'll make us some coffee, and we can talk."
But little did the pair suspect just how devious Marla was. She had told Ricky about the questioning she had received. He had his contacts in London and had heard of C.I 5's interest. He had warned Marla that if she were approached again, she was to 'cut and run' and come back to Guernsey.
As the waiting pair wandered round the room, vaguely appraising the lavish nature of the furnishings, they could hear sounds from the bedroom, the noise of cupboards and drawers being opened and shut. When it finally went quiet, they expected her to re-appear, as she had said, but instead there came another sound, a faint 'click'.
"That's the front door," exclaimed Bodie. "She's doing a runner !."
He charged for the door, turning into the hallway, to fall headlong over a large suitcase that Marla had placed there for that very purpose. Doyle, close behind him, almost did the same thing, but just managed to stay upright, though he was off-balance and banged his shoulder against the wall.
This unfortunate mishap caused the pair some delay, as it was intended to do. By the time Doyle had helped his mate up, and the pair shot out of the front door, Marla's bright red Porsche was fast disappearing.
They dashed to their own car and set off in pursuit.
And Marla led them a merry chase !
Whether somewhere in her earlier background she had gained a knowledge of London's back streets, or whether, being in haste, she just took the first clear road she came to, they couldn't tell, but she gradually led them into the seedier parts of the city, areas with condemned housing and derelict warehouses.
But as they saw her swing left into a small road several blocks ahead of them, Doyle let out a crow of delight. "We've got her now," he exclaimed, "That's a dead end !"
But when Bodie swung their car round the same corner, they got rather a surprise. There was no sign of the bright red car.
"Where's she gone ?," he queried, slowing down.
They cruised along the road in a very puzzled manner. Towards the end, they spotted an opening in a high wall surrounding the yard of an old warehouse. Taking a chance, Bodie turned in, and there was the bright red car, neatly parked, but empty. Bodie swung the car round and parked it neatly close to the Porsche, which had been turned so that it pointed towards the only access and exit opening.
They climbed out and looked towards the building. At either end there was a flight of stone stairs which led up to a second floor, probably offices, supported by pillars over a space for lorries to be parked and loaded. The loading-bay doors were firmly shut, with padlocked bars across them, so she hadn't gone in there.
They assumed that she must have gone upstairs, so they started cautiously up the nearest stairway. As they neared the top, Doyle drew his gun and checked it. Bodie didn't.
He was hoping that they wouldn't have to get too tough with Marla. He'd rather liked her at first, and after all, she was just a girl running scared.
And then it happened ! With his eyes carefully on the closed door in front of him, Doyle failed to notice the large crack in the next step, caused no doubt by frost damage and weathering. As he stepped forward and put his weight onto it, it gave way and a large piece broke off beneath him and fell towards the ground below.
Doyle pitched sideways, and would have had a nasty fall to the yard below, if Bodie's reactions hadn't been so quick. With one hand he grabbed the rail fixed to the wall, and with the other firmly caught hold of his mate's left wrist !
Doyle had dropped his gun, and had lost his balance completely. For a few brief moments, Bodie took his friend's full weight, before Doyle was able to scrabble his feet on the stairway, and get back onto it.
On his hands and knees on the dusty steps, Doyle looked upwards towards his friend, and mouthed a grateful 'thank you'. Bodie had saved him. He owed him one, and not for the first time.
As his mate got back to his feet, Bodie pointed over his shoulder. "Look," he exclaimed.
Doyle turned and saw Marla at the foot of the steps at the other end of the yard. He started quickly back down the stairs.
Marla ran across the yard, and into her car. She 'revved' the engine fiercely and made for the exit. But as she did so, a rolling football came through the gap, followed by a small boy ! Her front wing caught the child and flung him to one side.
.Marla didn't stop, but disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Doyle turned on his heel and berated his friend angrily. "Why didn't you 'plug' a tyre and stop her ?," he yelled furiously. "Now she's killed a child. Are you still soft on her ?"
He shot down the remaining stairs just as a woman hurried into the yard. She crouched beside the boy, and let out a loud wail.
Doyle ran over to her."Get in my car," he ordered, pointing. "I'll bring him, and take you to Casualty."
He looked at the unconscious boy, but could see no signs of broken limbs. So he scooped him up carefully, carried him to the car, handed him into the arms of the worried-looking woman, shot into the driving seat, and was off like a rocket.
Bodie was left standing half-way down the stairs, his gun in his hand now, but unused. Rather shaken, he sat down on the steps. What his mate didn't know, and hadn't given him time to explain, was that he'd tried to take the proper action, well-learned and rehearsed in training.
But, to his considerable shock, his fingers had refused to move, his hand felt numb, and there was pain the whole length of his his other hand, he took the gun from his nerveless fingers, and tucked it away in his belt. Then he took out his radio-phone, and thumbed it. He called into Base, told them where he was, and requested that someone be sent, as soon as possible, to pick him up.
Later in the day, Doyle returned to Headquarters. He was still angry with Bodie for failing to respond as he ought to have done, for he'd left a distraught woman, sitting at the bedside of her only child, in Intensive Care.
He decided to sit quietly with a cup of coffee, in an effort to calm down before he went to make his report. So he made his way into the canteen in the basement. Several other agents were there on a break. One of them addressed him, in a teasing manner.
"What have you done to Bodie, this time ?." he said lightly.
"What do you mean ?," asked Doyle in surprise.
"Oh, didn't you know ?," replied the man. "Murphy's just brought him back from St Richard's, with his arm in a sling."
Doyle shot up the stairs to the Rest Room, where he found Bodie lounging in an armchair, his feet up on a stool, being waited upon with coffee and sympathy, by one of the pretty secretaries. She left as Doyle entered and faced his mate.
"What have you done ?," demanded Doyle fiercely.
"Me, nothing," replied Bodie with a grin. "It was you, you big lump. You're no lightweight, you know."
"When I fell off the steps !," exclaimed Doyle, suddenly understanding.
"Yes," replied Bodie, "Apparently I've severely strained some muscles or tendons, or something."
"That's why you didn't stop Marla, isn't it ?" demanded Doyle.
"'Fraid so," admitted Bodie. "I did try, but my fingers wouldn't work."
"And I yelled at you," said Doyle. "I am sorry, mate. I didn't know." He looked rather shamed-facedly at his friend.
"Oh, well," said Bodie lightly, "You can make it up to me this next week."
"How ?," asked Doyle.
"You'll have to be my personal chauffeur, business and leisure, for the next few days," said Bodie, with a grin.
"Pleasure," responded Doyle, knowing now that there were no ill-feelings between them, _ they were too good a team.
Changing the subject, he asked, "Any news on Marla ?."
"Not yet," said Bodie, "There's an A.P.B out on her car, and an airport check, but nothing's come in yet."
But almost at once, Cowley summoned them to his office. "News," he announced, "Murphy and Johnson picked up Marla at Gatwick, trying to get on a flight to Guernsey. They are bringing her in, and should be in the Interrogation Centre in 10 minutes time. Let's get over there."
But the Marla they found when they got there, was a very surly, annoyed young woman, who totally refused to answer any questions. Even the threat of being charged with harming a child by dangerous driving didn't move her. Neither cajolement nor bullying had any effect, and they could hardly use some of the tactics they might have used on a man.
Finally, Cowley gave up for the time being, and had her removed to a women's prison, hoping that a few days and nights there might encourage her to be more co-operative.
The trio went back to Cowley's office to review the situation.
"I'm afraid there's little more we can do," said Cowley. "We can't go into the Channel Islands to grab Ferdinand without proof, and that we haven't got."
"What about May Lister ?," asked Doyle.
"I believe her story totally," said Cowley, "but it's unsubstantiated, and lawyers would tear her to shreds if we tried to make a case on that alone."
"That's true," admitted Doyle reluctantly. "So what can we do ?"
"Nothing at all, as yet," said Cowley, "So let's get on with some work that will give us results."
And this is what they did. With rest, Bodie's arm healed rapidly, and he was soon back on form, but not before he'd had a lot of fun playing the helpless invalid, and getting sympathetic girls to run round after him.
To Doyle's great relief, the child in Intensive Care also improved very quickly and was allowed home. Concerned, he had made sure that he had been kept informed.
Then one morning, as they reported in, they were called up to Cowley's office. He looked quite pleased, so they waited for him to impart his news. "I've had a call from Holloway," he said, "Marla has asked to talk to us."
They hurried down to the yard, where a driver was waiting with Cowley's car. As they went, he explained to them further what had happened.
"Apparently," Cowley began, "Marla nearly had a nasty accident. Someone tried to push her down a steep flight of stairs. She managed to grab the handrail, and saved herself. But then she really went for the girl who did it, - had to be pulled off and restrained."
They arrived at the prison and were escorted to a room where Marla was waiting for them. She had a scratch on her face, and a bruised cheek, and was sporting a look of fury. As soon as they were all seated, she burst into vehement language.
"That rat !," she exclaimed. "After all I've done for him, and I've kept quiet for three years.! Why did he think I'd talk now. ? But to pay someone to try to get rid of me ! That's a bit more than I'll take. I'll tell you everything now." And she did.
She didn't know any details about how the fatal crash had been faked, beyond that it was deliberately contrived, and that Rolly had made sure there was stuff in there that would identify him i.e. his gold ring, watch and clothes etc. She declared the Rutford was totally innocent, and really believed his employer had died. But Rolly had gone secretly to a clinic in Switzerland, and had spent three months there, having work done on his appearance.
She had been one of the first to see him on his return, meeting up with him in Guernsey, and had been amazed at the subtle changes in how he looked. She had told him details of the elaborate funeral she had attended, and he had laughed with great glee to think how everyone had been deceived.
She had helped him set up the club and the casino on Guernsey, and because it was only his appearance that had been changed, and not his exuberant personality, it had soon become a roaring success. He had, of course, gained another retinue of besotted lady friends, but because of the secret they shared, she was his 'special' one, or so she declared.
"But he tried to have me killed," she snarled. "That's all the thanks I get, is it ? I'll testify to it all in court, I swear," she affirmed.
With a few more questions, they learned all they needed to know, and got up to leave. But Marla had one more thing to tell them.
"He came back to arrange my 'accident' personally," she declared. "So he's somewhere in London. I hope you catch him," she added vehemently.
They drove back to Headquarters with a great deal to think about.
Marla hadn't been able to suggest where in London they might find Forester, so they were on their own there, but searches would quickly be put in hand, and especially checks at ports and airports to make sure he didn't sneak back to Guernsey, and escape them.
And this paid off. He was spotted at Heathrow, trying to book a flight to the Channel Islands. As soon as they heard, Bodie, Doyle and a back-up team were in their cars and on their way.
They located him in the Departure lounge waiting for the 'boarding-call' for his flight. They spread themselves out to different areas, endeavouring to cover all the avenues of escape he might use, if he tried to make a break for it.
They never found out exactly what alerted Forester, but suddenly he dropped his bag, and made for an exit door. The C.I.5 men sprang into action, each of them covering a different passageway.
Doyle was first through the same door as their quarry, and saw him running towards the doors at the far end of the corridor. He quickened his pace and was now closing up on him, wary of the gun that had appeared in Forester's hand. His own gun was out and ready too.
Forester had almost reached the far doors, when Bodie suddenly appeared from a side corridor, right in front of him. For a big man, Forester acted pretty quickly. In an instant, he had an arm round Bodie's throat, a gun at his head, and had swung them both round to face the on-coming Doyle.
"Back off," yelled Forester, "or I'll kill him."
Doyle stopped short, holding his gun steady with both hands, and stood stock still. This was a nasty stand-off, and there was no telling what a desperate man would do.
He met his friend's eyes. Bodie looked very calm and steady. Then his eyes flicked beyond Doyle, over his mate's shoulder, and then quickly back again.
Good, thought Doyle. That means I've got back-up, someone behind me, possibly Barton, and he's a crack shot.
He watched his friend steadily, waiting for a sign. It soon came. Out of his captor's sight, Bodie's hand displayed three fingers. That meant he was ready to try tactic 3, one of those they practised regularly in role play training sessions.
Slipping his own hand behind his back, Doyle also indicated 3 to whoever was behind him. He would know equally well what to do.
He looked towards Bodie, who gave the slightest of nods to indicate that he was ready.
Doyle tensed himself ready for action. Bodie's life was at risk. They had to get it right.
Then several things happened in quick succession.
Doyle yelled, "Now !," and dropped flat on the floor.
Bodie drove an elbow hard into the ribs of the man behind him, and threw himself sideways, and down.
A shot rang out, but just one!
Bodie and Forester fell in a tangled heap !
Doyle was on his feet, and running forward, as only one of the pair scrambled up again. Thankfully, it was Bodie, and to Doyle's anxious gaze completely unscathed..
Barton joined them at a run, and the three of them looked down at the man still sprawled on the floor.
He would not be getting up ! The Ferdinand/Forester saga had finally come to an end.!
There were a few loose ends to tie up. Cowley himself went to Holloway. When he found out that Marla's attacker could not identify who had hired her, he was free to offer a deal to Marla. In return for her continued silence, she would be at liberty to return to her life of luxury and her lucrative modelling career.
Marla accepted readily. She had had more than enough of prison life. She also had one other secret she hadn't yet told. She had been shown the letters that had sparked off events, and had a shrewd idea who had sent them. He was a nasty, spiteful little weasel of a man, with a very dubious background, so she knew enough about him to silence him effectively.
Doyle went to see May Lister. Trusting her, as Cowley had, he told her the truth. She was bright enough to see that nothing was to be gained by pursuing things any further. He went to see her in the play, and was impressed by her promising talent. She would go far, he was sure.
A few days later, at Cowley's request, their boss went to meet up with his friend, Lord Fenimore, his grandson, Charles, and Mr. Forbes, the film producer. He came straight to the point as he addressed the latter.
"Mr. Forbes," he said, "I think you can safely go ahead with your film, and finish it off with a spectacular crash-scene, as planned."
"You made some enquiries ?," asked Forbes curiously.
"Yes, indeed we did," replied Cowley.
"And the letters ?," asked Charles.
"I think we can take it that they were just a hoax," said Cowley mendaciously.
But his eyes met those of his friend, who spotted at once the gleam in them. Lord Fenimore smiled to himself.
There's more to this than he's telling us, he thought.
He's very clearly prevaricating, crafty old devil that he is.!