(See Page 1 for Disclaimer and Author's Notes)
In a Land of Shadow (Page 3 of 5)
by Gil Hale
Williams had called on the support of his friends in London again. He'd managed to convince them Blair knew enough to be a threat to them all, and they'd agreed to put a trace on Rachel Hunter's calls, and hopefully then on her father's. It was a long shot, but he had no other lead at all. So far, though, she hadn't made any calls at all. He glanced at his watch. It wasn't long past 5 p.m. She had implied it would be later before she contacted her father. Perhaps in the meantime he'd go check on Barson and Mobbs.
"This is a dead loss," Mobbs said when he pulled up by their van. "This street has to be the most boring place on earth. Nothing, nothing at all, has happened."
Williams frowned. This was what came of having people who were barely trained. "I'll see you're relieved in an hour or so," he said. "We won't relax surveillance while we have no other priorities."
Missionin this case to keep them alert and unsure whether he was coming backaccomplished, he went to pick up Hooper from the station. He'd been to collect more specific information on the types of security Alex Barnes would need to pass. It was not something any of them could trust to a third person, and certainly not to any traceable medium.
"Still no trace of Sandburg," he said when Hooper was in the car and they were safely back on the road. "No sign of the Triumph, no hint that anyone has approached a doctor or the police. I just spoke to the man we've got at the station and he's seen no sign of him."
"So what do you think?"
"I don't know what to think. Whoever the man who picked him up was, it can't have been planned, yet if he was an ordinary member of the public, he'd have gone to the police after those idiots shot at him."
"And Sandburg would have been giving all the appearance of someone who ought to be in a mental hospital," Hooper said. "I'd been giving him a fairly hefty dose of tranquillizers to get him to go near Barnes. With the sudden withdrawal of those, and the games we'd played with his mind, anyway, he'd be in no state to look after himself. Apart from anything else, I'd only worked on him enough to get him to cooperate while we had him away from all other contacts, and fairly well doped up. That level of conditioning would break down quickly in an uncontrolled environment, and his reaction would be extreme."
"But our mystery man seems to have coped with it. I really don't like this. The one thing we've got is that Sandburg escaped in that old Triumph. The daughter clearly has no idea where it is. She's contacting the rest of the family any time now. Let's hope they're not as innocent as they look."
He swung into the driveway of the large farmhouse they'd been loaned by a "sympathizer," and went up to his office.
Jim didn't know the route they were on, but it seemed to him they were making good time. Bodie drove without a word. His brief amusement at putting one over on his old controller had faded quickly, and he looked now as hard and unapproachable as he had seemed at Jim's first impression.
Jim picked up the road atlas that was tucked down beside his seat, for his own informationBodie clearly knew exactly where he was goingand realized they had already covered a good part of the distance. "We'll be there in an hour?" he asked.
"No. The last part will be slow. Around 5:00, we'll get to Swanage, I'd say. Then it depends how quickly we find the house."
They stopped at a garage a few miles before their destination and managed to pick up a street map as well as filling up the tank, so they approached the right street soon after entering the town.
"It's the third left off this road," Jim said, and was startled when Bodie instead pulled fast and abruptly into the next turn. "What are you doing?"
"See that water company van up thereat the end of the road we want? That wouldn't be a likely sight at this time of day, anyway, but I'm pretty sure that the man leaning in the window talking to the men is the one we want. Williams. I daren't get closer to check, I'm hoping he'll turn round and we'll get a clear view."
"Wait a minute. I can see him in the side mirror. Give me a moment to get the right focus." The man in the airport footage. The man who'd taken Blair. "It's him," he said.
He hadn't realized his surge of anger at the man showed, but Bodie said hastily, "Cool it. That's a break we didn't expect. Don't let's blow it."
"They're waiting for someone."
"Staking the place out, by the look of it. That's not our main concern, though. Can you hear what they're saying?"
"He's just telling them they'll be relieved soon."
"Right. So Williams is our best bet. If we can follow him without being seen, maybe he'll lead us to Sandburg." To Blair? Jim hardly dared let himself hope yet. But the car pulled out only a minute later, and Bodie glided smoothly after it, a car or two behind. They followed Williams to the station, where he picked up a middle-aged man, and then back to the road. And that was when Jim realized he'd been right not to be too confident. It was going to be more complicated, after all.
"They've lost Blair!" he relayed to Bodie. "I can't work out all the details from what they're saying, but it must have been a couple of days ago. That's why they're staking out that street. The Triumph they're looking for is the car that picked him up. Someone else has got him and they don't know who or why."
"He's got someone waiting to listen to calls from the Hunter family."
"So we listen second-hand while we think about this," Bodie said. "Keep an eye on that place they're turning in to. I'll go on past, then we'll work back and find somewhere out of sight, and whatever information they get, we should be able to act on it as fast as they can."
Elizabeth Walsh looked out of the window, as she had done several times in the past hour, and finally saw the car arriving. She waited. Murphy was with him. That was promising. She watched George get out, stiff as he always was these days if he sat for any length of time, but the wince as he straightened his leg couldn't disguise the vitality in him, the renewed enthusiasm. She went smiling out to greet them, and he looked at her and nodded.
"Aye. There's going to be a CI5 again. I've brought this laddie home to drink to it."
And to learn from the master, Elizabeth thought. She liked Murphy, and he had an excellent record, but George said it was no job for one man these days. She wondered if any decision had been made about who would share the responsibility with him. Still, enough time for that. The decision had been made and confirmed at the highest levels, CI5 was back in business, and she wondered just how much consternation that would cause around Whitehall when it became known.
Williams didn't want to leave his desk while he was waiting for London to call through with anything they'd picked up, so he wasn't giving a particularly sympathetic hearing to Dr. Hooper. "Okay, so she's agitated. After all this time of her lying there like a vegetable no matter what you did, I should have thought you'd welcome it."
"Well, yes, but she's showing more and more signs of instability. There's something almost feral about her reaction nowas if she perceives a threat, but we've no one new with her. The attendant is getting edgy."
Williams sighed. It seemed no one else around here could make a decision. "Then I suggest you sedate her and go look through Sandburg's papers to see if what she's showing matches anything he's written about."
"Sedating her may set her back."
"We'll risk it. We can't afford an incident here."
Hooper left, and five minutes later, the call finally came. It certainly wasn't a dead end. "She rang her father," the report came. "He told her not to worry about the car, and not to talk to anyone about it, even the police. Naturally, she asked a lot of questions about that, but he didn't answer any of them, just told her to trust him on it. So she's out of the picture, but I'd say he knows something, though it's not clear what. He's definitely where he's supposed to be, though, on a family visit in the northwest, so I'd say he's peripheral. We're monitoring his calls now. Wait a minute. I think they've got something."
Williams waited impatiently.
"Are you still there?" came his contact. "Right. Two calls. Both to Lulworth. One to a farmhe asked the man who answered, the farmer I think, if he could take a message up to the caravan. The farmer said, I quote: They're down the Red Lion, both of them. Hunter: Both of them? Farmer: He's got his son staying. Why don't you call the Lion? Jen will let you speak to him. She's got a soft spot for him. Hunter: All right. Give me the number." Williams could almost see him give a shrug. "So far, he hasn't been able to get through."
"Thanks," Williams said. "I can be in Lulworth in half an hour. It sounds worth following up. I'll get on with it before Hunter spooks them. If you pick up anything else, Dr. Hooper's here."
Bodie and Ellison also decided not to wait for the busy phone.
"If we hang on, Williams will be ahead of us, which is what we're trying to avoid," Bodie said shortly. "From what you heard, could either of those people at the Red Lion be Sandburg?"
"I didn't hear any more than I told you. There wasn't any detail. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but, anyway, he's not here, and Alex Barnes is."
"Is that a problem?"
Ellison stared stiffly into the distance.
"Come on," Bodie prodded irritably.
"Look, it's weird. I can sense her presence, and I think she can sense me. They said she was getting agitated. I think we'd be better following up this lead to Lulworth."
"If it's not Sandburg, maybe we'll pick someone else up who knows what's going on," Bodie agreed. "Pub, caravan, farmer, in that order, I think."
The last thing Doyle had intended was to go back to the Red Lion that evening, but events had pushed him. First Blair had slept increasingly deeply all afternoon, and Doyle hadn't wanted to wake him. Then just after Blair had finally surfaced, the farmer had walked up for a chat. He'd already heard about Blair, from the woman at the shop.
"I hear you're over from the States," he said to Blair.
Blair, who, to Doyle's relief, had evidently been listening at lunchtime, said, "My mom took me back there when I was a little kid. I don't really remember England."
"Ah, well, you couldn't come to a friendlier bit. I'm off down to the Lion in an hour or so. Why don't you both come down? You'll meet more locals in an evening."
It wasn't the sort of offer to turn down if they were going to keep up the cover story, so early evening had found them strolling down with him to the pub. Doyle told himself it was too late, anyway, to do much more today. He'd decided that the best thing to do was to call Murphy at home in the morning and tell him the rest of it. Murphy should have had time to confirm something was going on, and, more than anyone else still in the business, Doyle felt he could be trusted. He could contact Cascade for them, at least.
Blair looked better, much better, than he had previously, and if there was a haunted look in his eyes when he stopped to think, no one but Doyle was going to notice it. He handled the conversation well, too; it must have been a strain for him to play a part when his own grasp on who he was had so recently been shaken, but he did it with a resourcefulness Doyle admired. So things went smoothly, even pleasantly, until Jen, the landlady, called to him.
"Phone for you, love. It's Tom Hunter."
Doyle struggled to hear him in the noise of the bar, but he didn't need to get every word to know that this was trouble. The Triumph, he'd allowed for. It was Tom ringing him here that bothered him. Was he being paranoid? Maybe. But if he was the person searching for who'd been driving that Triumph, he'd have done his best to get a trace on the calls from its owner.
"Thanks, Tom," he said. No good worrying him. "Tell Rachel the car's safe."
"What's all this about a son? Do I want to know?"
"It's not some dark secret I've been keeping from you. I hope I'll be able to tell you the whole thing before too long. Take care, Tom."
"I think you're the one who needs to do that. What can we do to help, Ray?"
Doyle thought about it. He was going to have to rethink his plans yet again. "Call Murphy again. Tell him what you know. Tell him I've got my hands full. I've got to go, Tom."
How long would it take someone to get here if they picked up that call? Or worse, Tom said he'd already called the farm. He caught Blair's eye, and Blair came over to join him.
"Time to go," Doyle said softly. "Make an excuse for us. I want a word with Jen."
He needed to be away from here, but he also needed to know if anyone came, and she was sympathetic... "Jen," he said, "could you do me a favor? Quite a big favor."
"Depends what it is, love."
"If you get anyone in here asking for us, especially if they look like military types, send them in the wrong directiondown to the cove would do. And if there was any way you could get a message to me..."
He hadn't thought of one, but she did. "You'll be up by the caravan?"
"Then I'll send one of my girls up with something to wave, or a torch if it happens after dark. Up to the top gable window. You can see that from up the hill."
"That would be perfect."
"Well, don't you forget who your friends are," she said. "Me and the girls expect to see the two of you again, when we've got a bit of time to enjoy you. You will be back?"
"I hope so," Doyle said, but he was more concerned with going, and fairly fast. Blair was already moving to the door, so he followed him with a nod to the group they'd been sitting with, and once they were out of sight, set a hasty pace back up to the caravan.
"Watch the top window of the pub," he said to Blair when they arrived. "I'm going to fill a rucksack with anything we might need overnight. If you see anything wave from the window, shout."
"That's what you were arranging with the landlady?"
"Yes. I don't like doing it. For all she knows, we could deserve to be arrested. But I couldn't think of another way, and it's bad luck that Tom rang here. I don't suppose it would occur to him someone could be picking up his calls."
"Don't you have laws about that?"
"Theoretically. They can be bypassed, though."
Doyle bundled all the things he thought might be useful into his backpackfor weeks he'd been carrying all his belongings in it, anywayand began to make the caravan look as if they'd left.
"Someone's up there," Blair called. "They're waving... I'm not sure what that thing is. I know what it looks like."
In spite of the urgency, Doyle had to smile when he saw the voluminous pair of scarlet bloomers being waved up and down. "Must be their granny's," he said. "Easy to see, anyway. Hereput this long-sleeved shirt on. We're going where it's overgrown soon."
Blair started to follow him, then said, "Wait. Have you got any pepper?"
"There's some in the cupboards in there. Why?"
"I just thoughtAlex was waking up. I don't really think she could use her senses; I'm not even sure how much she has them anymore. But a Sentinel could track us in ways you wouldn't allow for. If we sprinkle pepper around the edge of the field, that would rule out scent."
Doyle saw he was serious; more than serious: the thought of her had brought back the haunted look to Blair's face. Silently, he got the pepper. "Show me how much," he said.
Bodie knew life wasn't going to be easy when he gave the landlady of the Red Lion his best charming smile and she looked at him as if he'd crawled out from under a stone.
"We're looking for a friend," he said.
"A couple of friends," Ellison added.
The trouble was, of course, they didn't actually know what these 'friends' looked like, but they'd decided to go with Sandburg's description. And hope he was one of them and hadn't had his hair cut.
The landlady listened as if he was describing something from outer space. "Sorry. I haven't noticed anyone like that in here," she said. "Now if you don't mind, I'm busy."
Bodie had wanted to do it casually, but he didn't need Ellison's nudge to know she was lying. "I'll ask around, then," he said. One of the girls behind the bar had already gone, at a nod from her mother, and he wondered if their men could actually be on the premises, but then the landlady said, "If you start harassing people in my bar, I'll call the police."
All right, if that was how she wanted it. He'd hoped to avoid the heavy-handed approach; not least because he wasn't officially here. Like Williams, though, Bodie had learned to appreciate the power of showing an ID. "I could call them myself, if you like," he said offering it to her. "Now, are you sure you don't remember the men?"
She called the other barmaid over. "There was a long-haired lad in here, wasn't there, earlier," she said. "I think he was going down to the cove. It's nice this time of night."
"They were going to look at the boats," the girl agreed.
Bodie met Ellison's eyes, saw the agreement that they were getting nowhere. "Thank you," he said.
As soon as they were outside, Ellison said, "They were both lying."
"I thought so. How accurately can you tell?"
"Ninety percent. In this case, though, I'd go for better than that. Wherever the men have gone, its not down to the cove."
Bodie thought about it. "What about the description of Sandburg. Did you pick up anything from her?"
"Not clearly. But that might have been because she seemed to be expecting us. If anything, I'd say she recognized it. But it still makes no sense to me why he'd be here with some stranger rather than getting in contact with his friends."
"Well, she seems to think she's protecting him. Or our mystery man. I wish I knew what the hell is going on. I wonder if they could have got some hint Williams is on his way, and mistaken us for his men. Let's hope he gets an even worse welcome than we did. Hang on."
He strolled into the shop near the pub, open all hours in the summer like many seaside places, and bought several small items. The lady there was friendly enough. "By the way," he said, as he pocketed his change, "you don't know if any of the farmers round here hire out caravans, do you? I don't want something on a big site."
"Joe Gautrey has one, up on the hillside. It's a lovely view from there. But someone's staying in it just now."
"Here for long, are they? Most families prefer a site with entertainments."
"Oh, it's just a chap about your age, and his son who joined him a day or two ago. I've no idea how long they're staying, but you could walk up and ask Mr. Gautrey."
"Perhaps we'll do that," Bodie said.
She gave them details of the direction to take to the caravan and the farm.
"You're right, it doesn't make sense," he said to Ellison once they gained the street again. "I can't see why Sandburg would be going along with this story when he's evidently free to walk about the place."
"They said they'd had him doped up, been playing 'mind games' with him. Maybe someone's taken advantage of that. Or could you have some rival group to Williams?"
Bodie couldn't really see how it fitted the facts, but Ellison was looking more stressed by the minute, and there wasn't a lot of profit in speculating about it. He hurried them on up to the caravan, and wondered how far behind them Williams might be.
Williams had delayed briefly to round up everyone except Dr. Hooper and the nursing attendant. He called Barson and Mobbs, told them what was happening and to stay where they were for the time being, but to be ready to join him immediately if he called them. The advantage of the delay was that he got the report of the second phone call, and the unwelcome confirmation that the person Hunter had asked for was Ray Doyle. He wasn't the only person concerned by that discovery. Most of his coterie were old enough to remember Bodie and Doyle in the days when they were Cowley's hunting dogs. There was something distinctly unnerving about finding out they seemed to be at either end of this affair.
"Find out what's going on," Williams said sharply. "We checked on Doyle. He's supposed to be suspended. Could Bodie have brought him in on this somehow? Where is Bodie?"
He got no answers before he left. His contacts would only use the secure line, so an uneasy Dr. Hooper was staying near the phone with orders to call him on his mobile if anything came through. He took five men with him, but warned them against any overt violence while there were witnesses. If they found Doyle and Sandburg in the village, it had to look like an arrest.
He decided to take that tone from the start, walking up to the bar in the Red Lion, showing his ID and asking for Doyle. The landlady said she'd never heard of him; did he expect her to know the names of everyone who came in? Williams, annoyed at the hostility of his reception, said he knew Doyle had been called to the phone there earlier in the evening, and she should realize there were penalties for obstructing the cause of justice. The landlady, now backed by half the customers, said the only way he could know about the phone call was if he'd had her phone tapped. At that point he realized life, once again, was not following his script.
"I know Doyle was here," he repeated. "Where did he go when he left?"
The landlady looked around the room. "Anyone here see a man called Doyle leave? Perhaps you'd all like to tell the gentlemen where you think he went."
Williams heard the first three different accounts and saw where this was going. He could be here all night while these idiots rambled on about interesting ways around their handful of streetsand that presumably was the idea. He'd taken the precaution of ascertaining the farmer's address, so he returned to his men, and went up to the farm.
"Blair was here." Jim Ellison stood in the doorway of the deserted caravan and knew it as tangibly as if Blair'd left footprints. Jim could tell he'd slept here and been afraid here. But the fear was old. He had no vocabulary to put his impressions clearly, but it seemed as if that had passed and for a little while it had been a place where Blair felt... safe? protected? How could he explain to Bodie what he hardly understood himself. Blair would say it had something to do with traces of some body chemical or other, that Jim had learned to recognize by instinct.
Bodie accepted his judgment without question. "Can you tell where he went when he left?"
The caravan had a slightly musty smell, as if it had been shut up for too long in the winter and its cushions had been tainted by damp. He could follow that smell, it would cling to anyone who had been there, and would linger in the air. He glanced at Bodie, and was grateful that he never seemed to think of the senses as particularly weird or wonderful; just useful.
They were useful for the remaining distance of the field and then he got a very sharp reminder of their downside. He'd extended his sense of smell confidently, knowing there would be no harsh chemicals out here. It never even crossed his mind that someone could have laid a trap designed for a Sentinel. So the pepper was a nastyand incapacitatingsurprise. He sneezed and streamed and wheezed and coughed until he was red and gasping.
Bodie, with commendable common sense, went to the stand pipe and filled a jug from the caravan with water for him to wash the worst of the reaction away. He didn't even ask, "What the hell was that?" until Jim had finished spluttering.
"Pepper," Jim said. "You can't smell it, can you? That was there to stop someone with heightened senses. No one else would even notice it. That must have been Sandburg. Why would he...?"
"You're not the only Sentinel down here," Bodie said. "There's the Barnes woman, remember? Could he have any reason to think she might come hunting him?"
Jim felt his jaw clench so hard his teeth hurt. From what he'd picked up of her, it wouldn't have been possible for Alex to hunt anyone, but Blair might not be sure of that. On top of everything else, the thought of Blair having to hide from that...
"I'll take that as yes," Bodie said, and, in a rare gesture of support, dropped a hand on his shoulder. "But she isn't. She's back where we left Williams. Can you go on now? Use a different sense?"
Jim glanced at him in surprise.
Bodie shrugged. "I told you about a guy in Africa I think must have been a Sentinel. I saw what happened to him when he was listening for something a long way off and we got an unexpected burst of thunder. He couldn't hear properly for days."
Jim nodded, and tried not to think how Blair would have loved to hear this stuff. They were nearer now. He was closer to Blair than he had been since that wretched day in Cascade. Think of that. He tried extending his hearing, but he was too uncertain of a direction or where to focus. "It'll have to be sight," he said at last. "If you were going to hole up somewhere around here, which way would you go?"
Bodie thought about it. "Not that way, because I'm pretty sure those paths lead onto the army ranges. Even apart from the question of possibly still being there when they start target practice, I wouldn't want someone like Williams to follow me there. Too much like his territory. I wouldn't head inland, either. I'd probably hole up somewhere in that mess of undergrowth towards the sea. Without dogs, you'd need a lot of men to make any impact searching that. Given that Williams can't be seeking publicity, he shouldn't have men or dogs."
Sight was what Jim was least happy about using without Blair along. He extended now, cautiously, the level at which he was seeingextended it until the minimal crushing of grass blades, the brush of bloom off a leaf showed where someone had passed not long before. "We don't know it was Sandburg," he said. "But it leads from this field, so..."
"Worth a shot, then," Bodie agreed. "Casual walkers would see this as private property; they'd come up the other paths. You'll have to be careful you don't get a crossed trail, though."
It was harder once they got into the bushy undergrowth which almost blocked the slight paths or animal tracks. Jim concentrated until he was moving in a world that most people would only see under a microscope, watching the grain of the leaves, a droplet from a tiny, crushed stem, the ghost of a footprint, standing out to him as if it was cast in plaster.
There had been movement along these ways that he hadn't allowed for: rabbits, a fox, maybe two, other small creatures. He began to keep his attention higher, on the bushes rather than the ground, and, snagged on a springy branch, he found a hair. Sandburg's? He let himself see it more closely until it became a thick strand of rope, curling across his fingers, and knew there was no doubt. Blair had been this way. The hair was like a beacon; he couldn't draw his attention from it. It was as if in that one strand he could see the molecules that were uniquely Blair... but the closer he drew to them, the greyer it all became. He felt, just too late, the danger, but it was too late to withdraw. The greyness of that place beyond senses closed around him.
Williams got the call on his mobile just after he'd left the farm. The farmer hadn't been there, and his wife had known nothing about the call. She'd seemed pleasant and helpful, but the fact remained that he'd obtained nothing useful from herexcept permission to go up and check out the caravan, and he would have done that without permission, anyway.
Then Hooper called, sounding more than usually neurotic. "London want me to move again," he said. "They wouldn't even say why, just that there'd been some very worrying rumors today and they were trying to confirm them. They want me to take Barnes to a secure location, and you to finish up there as quickly as possible. And they don't want Sandburg running round as a loose end. Or Doyle."
"I've got to find them first. And this isn't the Balkans. What do they expect me to do?"
"Whatever it takes, they said."
Williams thought hastily. He didn't want any violence to be traceable to him, not legally, anyway. He needed some trigger-happy idiot with a grudge. "Get on to Barson and Mobbs and send them here to me," he said. "I could use their skills."
Blair knewthe psych minor had been an interesting coursethat he was probably only focused on the horrible prickliness of gorse because everything else about the situation was too bad to think about. But whatever the reason, he was getting to the point where he was thoroughly fed up with being scratched and prickled and whipped by springy branches, while going at a pace more suited to a sports track, and still trying not to leave traces of his passing.
Ray, ahead of him, seemed to know where he was going. In fact, insofar as anything up here could be called a path, he was following one. To where, Blair couldn't guess. And then, totally unexpectedly, the undergrowth thinned, and he found himself at the top of a grassy slope leading down to some weird rock formations... and straight over a sheer drop to sea which was much, much too far down.
"Whoa!" he said. "What is this place?"
"Come along this way," Ray said, leading him sideways along the top of the slope. "I came up here the first two evenings I was in the caravan, and it was sheer luck I found this. I think it must have literally been a foxhole once."
Behind some large boulders, overgrown with bushes, was a deep indentation in the slope. If you didn't know it was there, there was nothing to hint at its presence.
"There was a stray dog up here," Ray said. "He had a collar, and he looked well-cared for, so I came up to get hold of him. It's not the safest place to be wandering. He was sniffing about in here. I didn't do more than glance in, because he was pleased to be found and I took him back to the village, but I think we can hole up here."
Blair wriggled in to the back of the hollow and found it was dry and not uncomfortable. Ray edged in after him, having brushed away the traces of their climb, and gently shook the undergrowth back into place.
"Now we wait," he said softly. "No more talking, no movement, wrap up in this, it's getting cooler now."
Blair pulled the blanket around his shoulders and wriggled into a more comfortable position. "What is this place?" he repeated, thinking of the curious formations below.
"Fossil forest," Ray said briefly. "Quiet."
"A fossil forest?" Blair whispered. "Cool. I suppose that was the boles of the trees? When I was a kid, I would have so loved somewhere like that."
"If you did what you were told then as well as you do now, anyone bringing you here would have had a nervous breakdown," Ray said. "I know they weren't right behind us, but let's go for silence from now on. Okay?"
Blair knew it made sense. It was just easier to talk when he felt nervous. He looked at Ray and saw the grim set of his face, and knew he was blaming himself for the situation. He leaned close enough to make it no more than a breath, and whispered, "Not your fault, man."
"I should have got you to someone who could do a decent job of looking after you and getting you back to your friends," Ray said equally softly.
Blair looked at him with disbelief. "You rescued me and you just about gave me back my sanity and you're risking your neck for me now, what more could you have done?"
"I'm risking your neck, as well, and I shouldn't be. I should have found a better way."
"Any other way, and I think I really would have lost my mind," Blair said as fervently as a whisper could allow. He had such fuzzy memories of those first few hours away from the nursing home, but the one thing clear was the sense of safety, of being able to give up totally and lean on Ray's care. How could he explain what that had given him? Not at all, apparently, because Ray put a hand over his mouth before he could speak again, and shook his head.
They sat in silence and listened, but there was nothing except the sea. No voices, no sound of anyone pushing through the bushes, no hint there was anyone else on the face of the earth but themselves. He drank a mouthful of water from the bottle Ray handed him, and watched the light fade until the leaves were colorless, then black, then barely visible at all. The edgy sense of being hunted muted a little with time. He realized he felt tired.
Sometime later, he must have slid over sideways against Ray's shoulder and dozed. He woke briefly, disoriented, and knew he was safe when he felt the warmth there. Ray shifted a little, perhaps feeling him stir, and eased him down so he could sleep less uncomfortably. There was still no sound except wind and sea.
Bodie, alarmed at the struggle he'd had to bring Ellison back from some place that made him stare blankly and frozen at nothing, decided to call a halt for a while. Ellison looked as if he was suffering from the prolonged concentration. If Sandburg and the mystery man were ahead of them, they certainly hadn't come back, and it couldn't be that far to the cliff edge. If there was a way back down towards the village, he hadn't seen it yet, and more importantly, didn't think they'd take ittheir aim had been to get out of sight.
He and Ellison sat in an open patch of sandy grass, and shared the bottle of water and Mars bars he'd bought as an excuse for being in the shop. The light was failing now, but he was reasonably sure that Ellison could track for a bit longer, then they might have to wait for dawn. Lucky the nights were still short.
Ellison, looking a bit less strained, turned his head slightly, as if listening. Bodie waited.
"Williams is back at the caravan. Quite a few men with him. At the moment they're going through it thoroughly for any hint where they've gone. He's waiting for someone called Barson? He's going to split his people up thentwo back down to the village, two to watch the caravan, he and the others coming into here. He's got the army checking their landyou were right about thattold them they might have dangerous intruders."
Murphy got back to his apartment at three in the morning. He'd spent hours with Cowley going over the plans for the new department. The old man was still as sharp as ever and in remarkably close touch with the intelligence world; Murphy knew how many people had consulted him on one issue or another over the years.
Cowley was still as strong-willed as ever, too. They'd spent the last two hours arguing over Murphy's second in command. Murphy wanted Bodie, and more or less had official approvalBodie had had an impeccable success rate in Hong Kong. It bothered him, though, that Cowley was dubious.
Cowley thought Bodie was harder, less scrupulous than he had been, and that Murphy would find him hard to control. He also thought it would push the new CI5 too far into the world of military intelligence, and leave it lacking on the side of liaison with the police. Murphy, whose approach to control was rather different from Cowley's, didn't share the first concern, but the second was valid. He'd have to think that one through. He had an ideamore than that, he had someone in mind. But although he thought he could deal with any practical problems of getting him, he wasn't sure he'd agree to comeor that Bodie wouldn't walk out if he did. He couldn't start a new CI5 with an internal war left over from the last one.
There were two messages waiting for him on his answer phone from Tom Hunter. The first, from early in the evening, asked him to call back. The second, recorded around midnight, told him enough to make him decide to give up on sleep for the night. For Doyle to send a message that was effectively an SOS, he had to be close to disaster. Murphy collected the skeleton of staff available to him at the moment, and decided this would be the first case CI5 handledthe first for fifteen years, anyway. He contacted Dorset police, and arranged to be down there by dawn.
Williams felt the passage of time as a personal threat. A second message from Hooper, now on his way with the woman to a more distant safe house, had been the worst news he'd had in a long time. 'Reliable sources' were saying that CI5 was coming back. Interfering with everyone else's business. Turning over stones that were better left hiding their slime. Supporting this government, which could only be biding its time before it showed its red underbelly. If CI5 got any hint of what he was planning...
He handed out night goggles to the men he was sending onto the cliff top and fake police IDs to the rest. What he was going to do if they still had no trace of Doyle and Sandburg by morning he didn't want to think. To Barson and Mobbs he gave silenced guns. They didn't need instructions what to do with them.
Bodie sat morosely in something that felt vaguely like a stone armchair, and waited for dawn. He'd been getting quite into this Sentinel thing, ready to sign up to the view that every covert group should have one. Ellison had been doing the work of a couple of dogs, a forensic lab and a listening device, and they'd been getting closer and closer to their quarry. Only now he'd lost the plot.
Well, maybe that wasn't quite fair. But the staring into space thing had been unnerving enough. It had taken Bodie more than half an hour to get him fully back on planet earth. That would be no joke if you were involved in action. Then Ellison had done quite well getting them this far along the trail, but it was too dark for sight now, and when he'd tried hearing, well, that had taken them into the realms of the bizarre.
Ellison had suggested it. He reckoned he could identify Sandburg's heartbeat, let alone his voice. Bodie had given him his headEllison had done a good job at the club and been quite useful at picking up the whereabouts of Williams' men, though you didn't need to be a Sentinel to work out they were still rummaging around in the gorse. But then Ellison thought he'd heard two heartbeats, together, that both sounded like Sandburg's. And to make things more irritating, he couldn't locate them more than to this broad area, because he said the sea threw him. He couldn't 'tune it out;' it was too much like white noise or something.
They'd given up altogether for the time being. Bodie was simply waiting, and Ellisonwell, the poor bastard was probably brooding. Bodie could rememberexcept he wouldn'tthe feeling of knowing your partner was close and in danger when you couldn't quite get to him. He turned to where Ellison was leaning on another of these strange rocks and said quietly, "It'll be light enough to see in about half an hour, I reckon. We'll split up then, start at either end and work in. If Williams' boys show up as well, we'll have to deal with them."
"I don't understand why they both sound the same," Ellison muttered. The heartbeat thing still seemed to be bothering him. "It's not an echo; they're marginally different speeds. But they both sound like Sandburg."
"All that matters is that one of them is," Bodie said. "We'll find them once we've got some light. You take this end, where you're more likely to pick up the trail, and I'll work up from the lower level. And watch yourselflose concentration here and you're liable to fall off the cliff."
Bodie edged down through the huge rocks as soon as it was light enough to move, before the real dawn. He wouldn't know where Williams' men were without Ellison, but they weren't likely to shoot on sight. Not here. Not without orders.
Blair woke to a hand over his mouth and a trace of light coming in through their protective curtain of greenery. He looked his question, and Ray nodded. With infinite caution, he edged forward so he could see through the tiny space Ray had made in the leaves. Almost level with them but much further along, just come out of the bushes, was the man from the nursing home garden. Blair felt his heart thud more rapidly. The man's attention wasn't on them, though, but on something below him. Ray moved slightly, to see what it was, and stiffened abruptly. Alarmed, Blair could see, even in the tiny amount of light they had, that his face had suddenly become taut and pale.
"Stay here," Ray breathed. "Whatever happens, don't move. I'll make sure I'm away from here before anyone sees me."
With that, before Blair could even ask what was happening, he was gone, sliding almost noiselessly out and rolling down behind the boulders. Then too many things happened at once. Blair looked back at the man from the garden. He had something in his hand that was clearly a gun, though the end looked odd. Silencer, some part of Blair's memory suggested. And the man below, who hadn't seen him waiting up on the edge of the bushes, was the one he seemed to be aiming at. Were there two groups out here fighting each other? Where was Ray?
That question was answered as the gun was raised. Ray, much further from their foxhole than Blair had expected, suddenly yelled, "Bodie! Gunman above you!"
The man down among the rocks moved so quickly Blair almost lost sight of him, spinning behind a standing stone. Blair didn't hear the shot, but he heard the impact, as a bullet must have struck chips from it almost simultaneously. Then there was an audible shot, and the man from the nursing home fell awkwardly. Ray ran to scoop up the gun before he could recover, stumbled awkwardly as he did so and fell. Blair thought he'd slipped, then he realized no one slipped quite like that. Something was seriously wrong. He disregarded everything he'd been told about staying put as he saw Ray stay sprawled where he'd fallen.
Blair burst out from the bushesand simultaneously someone fired over his head up into the undergrowth. There was a crash up there and he realised there must have been a second man, with another silenced gun, a man who'd fired at Ray and had now been aiming at him. Startled, he lost his balance on the dew-damp grass of the slope, but before he could fall he was caught and held in such a crushing hug that his body knew before his mind did who it was.
"Jim!" he gasped.
It was Jim, unbelievably, come like a miracle with the morning. Jim, shouting to the man Ray had risked himself for: "Clear! There's no one else up there!"
The three of them, he and Jim and the stranger from below, all turned towards the three casualties. One man from the nursing home was a body in the bushes; the second was moving slightly, clutching at his leg. Ray lay frighteningly still.
Murphy had sped down the empty roads, and done his liaising over the airwaves, so that he arrived in Lulworth while it was still barely light enough to see. The police had already picked up two prowling strangers, who had been pointed out to them by a night fisherman as soon as they arrived. On their informationand he quickly realized they thought what they were doing was authorizedhe led everyone available up to the top of the cliffs. He'd just arrested two more men at the far edge of the undergrowth, who gave up hastily at the sight of uniformed police, when they all heard the unmistakable sound of a shot from towards the sea. He began to fight his way along the tangled paths, but here was second shot before he'd gone more than a few yards.
Bodie ran up the slope, his mind lagging somewhere far behind his actions, his heart pounding with a fear he hadn't thought he could still feel. He'd reacted so instinctively to that yell that the years in between had fallen away. Impossible though it seemed, it was Ray Doyle who had broken cover from somewhere to save his neck. Where from, how he could possibly have come to be there, right now Bodie didn't care. Doyle had taken that risk as readily as he had ever doneand now he was down. Ominously down.
Bodie dropped on his knees beside the still, crumpled body, barely aware of anything else. Doyle was face down, a small pool of blood spreading from under his head into the grass. With clumsy fingers, numbed by a chaos of feelings, he felt for a pulse and was almost shocked to find it warm and beating strongly under his hand.
Ellison dropped beside him, and a young man, Sandburg, he assumed, who looked just about as bad as Bodie felt, was staring at Ray's body with wide horrified eyes.
"He's alive," Bodie managed.
With Ellison's help, he gently eased Doyle over, and the relief nearly made him throw up like some raw recruit. The bullet from up above had caught Doyle a glancing blow, digging an ugly, bloody furrow across the side of his head and stunning him, but that was all. It was bleeding generously, as scalp wounds did, but Doyle's eyes were already trying to open and focus.
Ellison dug into his pocket for a handkerchief, and pressed it against the gash. Doyle muttered something, then opened his eyes properly, though they were still unfocussed. "Blair?" he asked.
Blair swallowed, rubbed his arm across his eyes and said thickly, "I'm fine. Jim's here. We're going to be okay."
He broke off as a loud crashing in the bushes caught all their attention. Bodie looked up, already assessing their defenses, but Ellison, seeing further than they could, said with surprise, "It's a copone of your uniformed policelots of them, I think."
Bodie slid his gun back into its holster, then on second thought, wiped it and gestured to Ellison to do the same with his. "Put them with the bodies of those two. Some nasty violent crime we bystanders got caught up in. You'll have to say goodbye to the gun, though."
"It's a back-up piece. I can get another," Ellison said, and hastily did what Bodie suggested. The holsters they tossed into the foxhole, just in time before the forcesin strengthof law and order came pouring down onto the grass.
All the time, more than half Bodie's attention had been on Doyle, who was struggling to recover and see what was going on. "Lie still," Bodie said, but as Doyle paid no attention, he helped him to sit up propped against him. Sandburg was hunched over with his head on his knees, as if everything had just caught up with him, and Ellison, transformed from the grimness Bodie had known in him so far, had one arm around him. They didn't make a bad picture of innocent victims at a crime scene. Except that the man who now appeared, in charge of the stream of police and agents, was never going to believe it. He came over to them, fortunately with concern the dominant emotion in his expression.
"Well, here I was expecting just to have to rescue Doyle and I got double for my money. Did you mention to anyone you'd be causing mayhem down here, Bodie?"
"Murphy," Bodie said in acknowledgement, ignoring the question. "Hope you've tidied up nicely. Did you get Williams?"
"Murph," Doyle mumbled. "Thought we'd stopped meeting like this."
"How many casualties?" Murphy asked, looking at Doyle with an assessing eye and Sandburg with interest.
"Two. I think you'll find they shot each other," Bodie said blandly. "Guns are by the bodies."
"No one here's armed, of course?" Murphy said dryly, and sent his men to deal with it. "I can see Doyle needs attention. Besides yours, I mean. What about the rest of you?"
"Blair needs..." Ellison and Doyle began together.
Blair looked up; he looked drained, but better than Bodie would have expected. "I'm okay," he said.
"Get us VIP treatment, Murph," Doyle said, leaning back against Bodie. "In and out quick. Persuade them we're a security problem. Nice nurses, good painkillers and then home. Someone's home."
"Yes, I'm afraid Williams took the caravan apart rather thoroughly," Murphy said, still staring at them with a speculative look that Bodie found slightly unnerving. "Look, I think we'd better get you four out of here and off to the hospital, and I'll finish up. Ellison must need to call his people, we need to hear Sandburg's story, and then I want a word with you two. Do we need a stretcher for Doyle?"
"No," Doyle said. "It's getting better except for a bloody awful headache. I can see straight. Can walk well enough."
Bodie lifted him to his feet and held him there. "Send a couple of your boys with us," he said.
"I was planning to do that. Right to the hospital and beyond."
Bodie turned his attention briefly from Doyle to the busy scene and the quantity of men from both police and intelligence. "What the hell are you these days, anyway? One of the big guns?"
Murphy grinned. "As of yesterday, I'm the provisional head of the restored CI5, my lad, so you'd better show me some respect. And since you and Doyle seem to have rediscovered the ability to work together, here's something for you to think about besides the nurses. I need some senior officials. Believe it or not, you two came to mind, in spite of the many and various objections I can think of. You're both in a position to consider a career change. Talk it over. George thinks we need to keep a balance between military intelligence and the civil forces, and if you're not balanced in any other way, you might offer that."
Bodie was temporarily too taken aback to think of a good answer to all that. Doyle, leaning heavily against him now in defiance of his assertion that he felt okay, mumbled, "Call him George to his face, do you? Very cozy."
"I've got approval for Bodie, if he wants to take the post," Murphy said. "I can get approval for you. Think about it, Ray. You'd make a differencean important one. But go and get yourself fixed up first."
Bodie turned to Ellison, a silent, perhaps puzzled, listener to all this, and Blair, who, like Doyle, looked as if he'd be lucky to get back to the cars on his own feet. He could see on their faces the same slightly shell-shocked look there was on his own. This morning was going to take some assimilating. But the relief was there, too; and the look of men who hadn't been sure they would really see each other until now and didn't quite know what to do with the thankfulness, especially with an audience of police officers.
Two of the plain clothes policemen came to join them and escort them back to the cars. Bodie pulled one of Doyle's arms over his shoulder and realized he was completely unarmed, and had been all along. "Damn fool stunt coming out into the open without a gun," he said.
"Hadn't seen you for fifteen years," Doyle said. "Didn't want to mark it by watching you get your head blown off."
That came much too close to what Bodie had briefly feared he had seen happen to Doyle. "Well, next time, just yell and stay under cover."
"Going to be a next time, is there?" Doyle said, suddenly sounding slightly tentative.
"Yeah, I reckon." He didn't really know how his anger and resentment, as fresh yesterday as it had been fifteen years ago, could bleed away so suddenly into the grass, but it had. Perhaps it was because Doyle's gut reaction even after all this time had been to put his life on the line for Bodie's.
"You're okay when you don't have time to think," Bodie added.
"You could do with thinking a bit more."
"There you are then," Bodie said, taking more of his weight as he stumbled. "Balance. Between us, we've got it."
They had, he realized with a sudden upswing of mood, just won. Won in all sorts of ways. He hadn't really taken in yet what it could all mean. He looked back at Ellison, also struggling slightly to move along the path while still keeping Blair on his feet, and saw the confirmation of their victory. They were taking safely away from here everything that mattered.
Blair found that emergency rooms, even with what was supposed to be VIP treatment, didn't vary much from one country to another. The staff was busy, kind beyond the call of duty, and inclined to find more wrong with you than was really fair. And blood. They always wanted your blood.
"Jim, you know I'm okay," he grumbled. "You've been checking me out the whole time. I'm fine."
"You passed out on the way back to the car."
"I didn't. Well, technically I did, but only for about ten seconds." Things had just caught up with him when they got back to the field. It was everything at once: remembering how he'd been unable to remember Jim's name; thinking of Alex; looking across at Ray, holding a bloodstained hanky to his face. The field had wobbled and swirled around him, and maybe he'd have fallen if Jim hadn't had a good hold on him, but Jim did, so no one really needed to have blown the whistle on it to the doctors. Consequently, even more tests. Though he didn't really want to go home until he knew more about how Ray was, so it wasn't much use complaining.
The hard-faced and rather enigmatic man who seemed, by some chain of events Blair didn't follow, to be the partner Ray had talked about, looked in. "Doyle's being stitched," he said. "Apparently, it calls for privacy even when it's just your head. I think they're going to let you both go after that and a few more checks."
"How come they told you? They won't tell us anything 'til the doctor comes back."
Bodie smiled. "I told the rather harassed senior nurse that it was my duty to arrange protection for you if they were keeping you in. I explained how many officers we'd be putting on and so on. She said they had no intention of keeping you, and Doyle could go if we kept an eye on him. I said you'd been a medic, Ellison. That's right isn't it? Anyway, presumably you can take his vital stats from the other side of the room."
Blair looked at Jim with something between disbelief and alarm. Jim shrugged. "I needed to use my senses if we were ever going to find you. Anyway, Bodie knows about Sentinels. He knew a tribal one in Africa. You should ask him about it."
Blair wondered for a moment whether to take offence at being distracted with all the subtlety one would show a five-year-old, but the subject was too tantalizing. Perhaps Bodie wasn't sorry to be distracted, either; at any rate, he talked for a long time and with a wealth of detail Blair couldn't help appreciating. Blair borrowed a pencil and notepad from the nurse, and began to write it all down.
Time passed. Checks were done on them bothagain. Bodie and Jim took it in turns to go and buy something unhealthy for lunch. Tentatively, Jim and Blair began to hear each other's side of the story.
"Eli went ahead," Jim said quietly. "He doesn't want you lost to anthropology."
"And the PD?"
"Simon's trying to get some line on setting you up as a special consultant, but he's still getting the fall out from the dissertation. We'll get there one way or another, though." He'd tried twice to get hold of Simon, but failed. He'd told Joel, though, and Kelso at Rainier.
Blair shook his head slightly. "It's weird, you know, knowing that it's all real. They really had me convinced I'd made it up. If I hadn't run into Ray, I think my brain would really have gone into meltdown. Can you hear if he's back yet?"
Jim paused, and listened. "He sounds as though they've given him something; he's more than half asleep. Murphy's there, talking to Bodie. Sounds like whatever this CI5 is, they're going for it. Oh, and this will interest you. Murphy says he called Tom Hunter, and he and his wife are coming home and want us all to go there at least for the night."
"You okay with that?"
Jim thought about it, and nodded. "Murphy's keen on it. Means he can concentrate his men in one location. But I doubt if we'll see any more of Williams."
"What about Alex Barnes?"
"Disappeared as well. I can't keep listening, though, Chief. Some of this is sensitive stuff for Brit intelligence. Apparently, Williams and some rogue agents planned to use her to break into a location so important they hoped to bring down the government on the grounds they'd let it be breached."
"James Bond stuff."
"Exactly. And none of our business."
Blair tried hard to look as though he never took an interest in what was not his business. His nurse came back in, all smiles, as if she hadn't just been bristling with needles to stick in him. "The doctor will be here in a minute, and I think you'll be cleared to go home. No alcohol for a few days, and try to avoid too much caffeine. I'll have a print out for you of what's advised."
She went briskly out as Bodie lounged in. "Time to go home, boys and girls. Or did you already know that?" He glanced at Ellison. "Anyway, in case you missed it, we're going to the Hunters. Stella Hunter is a nurse and the people here know her, so they're more than happy to release you now."
Yes! Blair refrained from punching the air, which would have seemed rather ungrateful to the nurse, who came back with a doctor, the promised print out... and a scrap of paper she slipped to Bodie, getting a surprisingly charming smile for it.
Blair raised his eyebrows at Jim in silent question, while the doctor glanced through the remarkable number of pages in his record that Blair had generated in his short stay.
"Telephone number," Jim said under his breath. "Don't ask me what they see in him."
The doctor didn't spring any last minute surprises on them, and within minutes, they were outside in the sunshine. Blair was surprised it was still so bright until he remembered the day had started before dawn. Ray looked white and heavy-eyed, and though he'd insisted on walking to the car, he didn't protest when Bodie half lifted him into it. When they got to the Hunters, Doyle fell asleep within a minute of sitting down. Blair wondered if Bodie knew that, sitting beside him, he looked like some kind of human guard dog, ready to object violently if anything disturbed his trust. He didn't mention it, but he caught Stella Hunter's eye as she looked at them, and the grin he got suggested he wasn't the only one who'd noticed.
He wasn't exactly wide awake himself now, though. He half dozed, half listened to Bodie and Jim talking to Murphy and only woke up properly when Murphy said something so surprising, he thought for a moment he'd dreamed it.
"I've been talking to your Captain Banks," Murphy said to Jim. "He was trying to get hold of you, and got sent around various people 'til some bright spark put him through to me. I knew about the Sentinel media frenzy you'd had problems with; most intelligence services do, I suspect. It's a concept that's becoming increasingly known. Chatting with him, it seemed to me we may be able to do you a good turn, in return for the one you and Sandburg have undoubtedly done us."
"What sort of good turn?" Jim asked. Blair elbowed him to remind him not to be so ungracious.
"The effect of that story breaking the way it did was Williams showing up in Cascade, to get Sandburg. It would take very little editing of the facts to suggest we intended that to happen, that in fact Williams was set upthe excesses can be blamed on the behavior of the publisher and press. I shall officially thank your police commissioner for the sacrifices Sandburg made to help us out in this way, and Banks thinks that should more than clear the way for the consultant set-up. You'll have to deal with the university yourself, but I gather that's under way, anyway."
Blair felt Jim's arm tighten around his shoulders, and knew he was silent for a minute because he was getting control of his voice. Blair never worried about that. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" he said. "All I ever wanted was to stay working with Jim. I didn't think anyone could swing it."
"Ray told me this morning when I first called at the hospital," Murphy said quietly. "He seemed to think it was pretty important, so when I spoke to Banks, I'd already begun to see how it might work. You might mention it to him when he wakes up, Bodie."
Bodie's hard face softened slightly when he looked at Doyle. "I'm hoping that won't be 'til morning, but, yes, I'll tell him."
"Thanks," Jim said, finally finding his voice.
Blair could hear just how much Jim did still want to be partnered with an undisciplined anthropologist. He could feel it, too, in the arm Jim still kept around him, as though he might disappear if he was held too carelessly. The warmth of the knowledge settled into him, easing hurts he'd half-forgotten he still felt.
Bodie and Murphy began to explain to Jim the set up of CI5. It wasn't quite gripping enough for this end of a tiring day. Ray had the right idea. Blair let his eyes close.
Some time later, he realized he was using Jim for a pillow.
A lot later still, he found he had a real pillow. And a bed. He decided not to speculate on how he got there. He turned over comfortably and went back to sleep, and thought drowsily how odd it felt to be looking forward to tomorrow.
"So how did you come to know Ray, anyway?" Bodie asked.
He'd decided in the twenty-four hours he'd been there that he liked the Hunters; he was slightly surprised he'd never met them before when he discovered how long Doyle had known them. He and Ellison were 'helping' clear up the leftovers from lunchmostly by eating them. Doyle and Sandburg were outside. Dozing in the shade, probably. They were still in need of some rest and recovery.
Stella laughed. "I met him at a rock concert, of sorts, when I was barely sixteenand extremely silly. I was lucky I did meet him, really. If you promise not to tease him about it, I'll show you a photo."
"I promise," Bodie said promptly, and ignored the look he got from Ellison. The man ought to switch the lie detector sense off when he wasn't on duty.
Stella rummaged in a drawer, and after a while, pulled out a scruffy envelope. "I never put this one in an album in case it gave the children the wrong idea, but I found it the other day after Ray had been here, and thought I'd keep it handy to show him."
Bodie took it with interest, and found himself looking at a very young, very long-haired Ray Doyle, in jeans, a scruffy T-shirt and a leather jacket, with his arms around three girls.
Stella looked at it and blushed slightly. "We were all over him. I really cringe when I think of it. And he was in the police even then. We just didn't know it, we thought he was so cool, with his guitar and that hair. That's Naomiwith the red hair. She was going around with him during the concert and we envied her so much, Pam and I. She was so utterly furious when she found outthat he was in the police, I mean."
"He was undercover?" Bodie said, thinking of a hundred ways he could amuse himself with this picture at Doyle's expense.
"Yes. It must, looking back, have been just about his first big case. I didn't know that then, of course. I was just so grateful he made sure we were okay. He actually came and called on me a few weeks later, and we've never lost touch."
"So he was sleeping with Naomi," Jim said, in such an odd voice that Bodie stared at him.
Stella was more thrown by the wording of the question than the tone of it. "Well, yes. Though you could say she was sleeping with him. She was the one who, well, initiated it. I mean, compared to us, she knew what she was doing. She believed in free love, she said." She picked up an armful of plates. "Anyway, that's how I first came to know him. If you tease him, Bodie, there won't be chocolate cake for tea."
But teasing Doyle was no longer the first thing in Bodie's mind. As she went out, he turned to Ellison, who lookedstunned. "What is it?" he asked. "You know this Naomi?"
"It's Sandburg's mother," Jim said blankly. "Is there a date on the photo?"
Bodie turned it over. "She's penciled on it 1968." He looked at Jim and began to understand the shocked speculation he was seeing on Jim's face. "Oh, come on... you don't think..."
"Sandburg was born in '69," Jim said.
Bodie stood and looked at the photograph and tried to think of all the reasons why this could just not be a possibility. It was crazy. It was too much of a coincidence. Even in 1968, girls knew how to avoid getting pregnant. Especially girls who believed in free love.
"Sandburg says even his mother isn't sure..." Jim said, still staring at the picture as if he couldn't believe his eyes.
"You said their heartbeats were the same..." Bodie said, remembering.
"And there's a kind of similarity there..."
"Irritating tendency to idealism as a hereditary trait," Bodie said, but it came out less joking than he'd intended.
They stood and looked at each other, completely lost for words.
"What do we do?" Ellison said at last.
Bodie looked at the photo he was still holding. "It's not our call. It's not as if you've anything more than a wild guess." He paused. Thought about Doyle; thought about the bits he'd gleaned from him of the few days he'd known Sandburg. Ray had practically adopted Blair on first sight. Old instincts, buried so well for fifteen years that they'd hardly faded at all, woke and made him realize that if it worked out wrongly, this could hurt Doyle.
"Blair would want it," Ellison said quietly. "Maybe too much. Ever since I've known him, I've been aware it was a major gap in his life, having no idea of who his father was. Right now he'd grab onto that kind of security with both hands." "If it's a real possibility, I suppose they've the right to know," Bodie said. "Stella could just as easily have shown them the picture, and we'd have had Sandburg going, 'That's my mom.' It's going to come out sometime that Ray knew her, and I don't suppose they'll be that much behind you in thinking of the dates and the potential connection."
"Sometime, maybe, but it doesn't have to be right now," Ellison said. "It's too soon." He touched Bodie's arm, drawing him towards the open door. "They're not ready for any more... challenges of any sort."
In the shade of an aging and untidy apple tree, Blair lay on his stomach on a blanket, scribbling in a notebook. Doyle, sprawled full length on a sun lounger, seemed to be fast asleepand given the white, pinched look around his eyes and the effort it had taken him to eat any lunch, he probably needed it.
"All very well," Bodie said, "but there'll be hell to pay if it does come out and they think we knew and didn't say anything."
"We can give it a few days. It's not as if we do know, anyway. Not in a way that would be evidence. Blair's been shaken enough by what those bastards did to him; he doesn't need more uncertainties."
That brought into clarity a thought that had been hovering at the edge of Bodie's mind. "We could prove it one way or the other," he said slowly.
"Murph could fast-track it. Easier to make a decision if we were sure."
"Without their permission?"
"Damn it, Ellison, you're the one who doesn't want them told. How many ways round do you want to have this argument?"
Ellison had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "All right. Getting samples will be easy enough, and Murphy's back tomorrow morning, isn't he? Now, put that photo away."
Ray Doyle woke slowly, and realized the sun had moved far to the west while he was asleep. It was early evening now, though it was still hot and still.
He wondered if moving would awake his headache to unmanageable proportions. The painkillersmild in view of the head injurycouldn't exactly be said to be killing pain, and though it was just about bearable if he lay still, the thought of standing up was daunting. However, a day's worth of cups of tea were making themselves felt. Reluctantly, he pushed himself up to a sitting position.
He'd thought he was alone, and didn't try to suppress the grunt of discomfort this caused. At the sound, Bodie strolled into view and offered a steadying hand.
"You look terrible," he said.
"I feel terrible."
Bodie laughed. "You never were much of a stoic. Come on, sunshine. On your feet."
His support was gentle enough, though, keeping Doyle upright until the garden finished rocking around him and the sparking agony in his head faded back to a throb.
"Where d'you want to go?" Bodie asked.
"Where do you think?"
Bodie helped him into the house and waited for him.
Doyle had never understood Bodie and he never would. For fifteen years, he'd been written out of Bodie's life as completely as if he was dead. More completely, probably, because he'd bet he'd been banned even from Bodie's thoughts. Now he seemed, in a matter of hours, to have been reinstated as if that fifteen years had never existed.
"We ought to talk," he said, letting Bodie give him a hand towards the kitchen now.
"Murphy's back tomorrow. Time enough then to go over the details."
That wasn't really what Doyle had meant, or only part of it. If they were going to work efficiently together, they couldn't pretend the past hadn't happened. He couldn't, anyway; maybe he was underestimating Bodie's ability to deal only in the present. The thought of negotiating his way around the minefield of explaining this was definitely beyond him at the moment, though. He slumped into the chair Bodie had kicked out for him and saved his energy to appreciate tea and sympathy from Tom.
"Anything new?" he asked, when the tea had worked its usual magic on his brain cells.
"Dead ends," Bodie said. "No trace of Williams. Most of the men Murphy picked up thought they were on a legit assignmentthey'd been brought in just for the night, and didn't know anything useful. The two from the cliff top aren't talking. Well, one isn't, one can't yet. We've a fairly good idea what they want to use the Barnes woman for, but there's a number of locations to secure. Ellison's making himself useful suggesting precautions they could take, on the grounds he was the one who took her beforestrictly not as a Sentinel, of course. Murph's liaising with him, then passing it on, so there shouldn't be any problems there."
"So we've put them out of action for now?"
"They'd be fools not to lie very low for a while."
Doyle nodded, a mistake, as it started shock waves of pain going through his head again. "Yeah. They'll disappear with the woman and resurface to cause trouble in a few months when they've had time to regroup."
"By then we should be ready for them," Bodie said. "Which reminds me, Murphy's allowing us another couple of days while you get back on your feet, then he wants us in London, full of bright new initiatives to take CI5 into the 21st century."
Doyle winced at the thought. "Murph doesn't take himself that seriously."
"Ah, but he has a PR man now. Everyone does. You won't recognize yourself when you read the edited version in the press."
"I knew a girl that happened to," Blair said, coming in and catching the last sentence. "Only in her case, it was a picture that was editedup at least two shirt sizes."
"Page 3 girl?" Bodie asked, interested, and was appalled by Blair's blank look. "You don't know about page 3 girls? That's a very important aspect of British culture. Tom, I don't suppose you've a copy...? No."
"Forget PR and page 3," Doyle said. "What does Murphy want us to do for the next couple of days?"
"Rest," Tom said. "He'll come down tomorrow for an hour or so to deal with paperwork, but otherwise you recuperate. While you were asleep, Stella conned the hospital out of some painkillers that might actually work. Take a couple of those and go lie down again. You're a terrible patient."
"I'm bored," Doyle said, but his head was pounding painfully enough to make him reach out for the tablets. "All I've done all day is lie around."
"Possibly because you got your head in the way of a bullet yesterday," Stella pointed out, coming in with a vast bag of groceries. "It's still the main topic of conversation in A&E. And I promised them you'd be sensible. Go and lie down. Take him away, Bodie. Read him the paper or somethingCI5 made the front page of the Times."
"I read it to him already," Bodie said, helping unpack the food and finding the cake. "It's your turn, Blair. Go and tell him tall tales of anthropology."
"He'd probably rather have Jim and police procedure," Blair said, but he readily helped Doyle to his feet and gave him a hand upstairs. Bodie smiled benevolently at them and waved the cake.
He did it just a bit too convincingly. Doyle remembered, over the fifteen-year gulf, that look in Bodie's eyes. In spite of his headache, and the dawning fuzziness from the painkillers, it made him suspicious. It was natural enough that Bodie would prefer to stay in the kitchen with the chocolate cake, but...
"Go and see what Bodie's up to," he told Blair as they reached the landing.
Blair looked surprised, but he went. Doyle waded through molasses the last few steps to his room, and flopped gratefully on the bed. He had no intention of going to sleep before Blair reported back, though.
"He's eating cake and watching the news," Blair said. "You don't mind if I ask what you expected him to be doing?"
"I'm not sure. It's just that I know... knew... Bodie too well. He had some reason for wanting to send us up here."
"Couldn't have been the cake. He knows we wouldn't want it. Now if Jim was there..." He stopped and thought for a moment. "This afternoon, before Jim went to draw security systems for Murphy, he told me I could tell you anything I wanted about the Sentinel stuff and how we met and so on. That was an incredibly un-Jim-like thing to say. I mean, I was pleased he was cool with it, especially as I guess you'd worked quite a lot out, but it's just not Jim to come out with something like that."
Doyle's headache, which had been ebbing, came back a little when he tried to think this one out. Since it had been a completely different time of day, it could hardly be that Bodie and Jim wanted them out of the way for some reason of their own. But what possible reason could they have for simply wanting to maneuver them into talking? It wasn't as though they'd been on anything but good terms before.
"Maybe they're just trying to be considerate," Blair offered, without conviction. "I mean, I suppose we'll all be going our separate ways quite soon. We'll have to go and sort things out in Cascade, and you'll be doing CI5 24/7. Don't know how soon I'll see you again."
When his mind had been clear enough to think, Doyle had felt sharp regret about this, too. He'd grown very close to Blair over the few days they'd been together. "I'd like to come and see you get that doctorate," he said, and was pleased to see Blair brighten slightly as he was reminded of the positive side of his return. "In fact, maybe Bodie was right. Maybe you should tell me something about anthropology, and what it's like studying at where was it... Rainier? How did you choose anthropology, anyway?"
Blair settled cross-legged on the foot of the bed, obviously ready to talk for a while. Doyle hoped it would be okay to close his eyes while he listened; they seemed to be closing by themselves. He drifted, pictures of the tapestry of Blair's early, almost nomadic life and his youthful start at Rainier weaving themselves into his thoughts as he lay half-awake. Blair talked about the color, the experience, and went quickly past the parts that had evidently not been so good. Doyle, with a lifetime's experience of the ways life could be less than great for a child among assorted unrelated adults, or with a mother's changing boyfriends, couldn't help being aware of what went unsaid.
The things wove together: Blair's bright, quick mind, his enthusiasm for people in all their forms, and his uncertainties, his inability to believe anyone was a long-term friend. Doyle remembered what Blair had said about wondering whether anyone would really regret he was gone, and wondered how Blair could not see the agonized relief barely hidden behind Jim's eyes every time he looked at him. Of course, compared to Bodie, Jim was almost open...
"I'm putting you to sleep," Blair said, unoffended. "How about we save the next installment for tomorrow? You don't have any plans for tomorrow except seeing your new boss."
Odd way to think of Murphy, but he'd be better for the job than Doyle or Bodie would ever have been. Certainly better at talking to ministers.
"No plans," Doyle agreed without opening his eyes. "But the day after, when I hope I feel more like it, I want to go back to the Red Lionthank the landlady and her girls."
"Now that's my idea of a plan. I liked it there. Between me losing it and you getting shot, it was a kind of pleasant interlude. I suppose we can't tell them the real story, though."
"They'll like it better if it's hush-hush," Doyle said, having more and more trouble staying awake. "Keep the cover story. Explain Bodie and Jim are some of the good guys. Tell them it's all worked out okay."
"It was a good cover story," Blair said, his tone unfathomable to someone ninety-percent asleep.
"Yeah, it was." Even his own feelings were unfathomable, let alone Blair's. Maybe they'd make sense when he woke up.
Williams knew Barson and Mobbs wouldn't talk; well, Mobbs couldn't, he was still in a coma, but Barson wouldn't either. He wouldn't try to be clever. He'd just sit in sullen silence and deny everything except being hired to do the rough stuff.
He'd abandoned them, of course, in fact it was a day before he was sure Mobbs had survived. He'd called Hooper from the cliff top as soon as he realized his men were being rounded up; Hooper would take the girl and the two medical orderlies and move to their last safe house in this part of the world. He'd wondered briefly about trying to get right out, but the time on the road would have been too risky, especially with the Barnes woman becoming unpredictable.
After that, Williams had left the scene in a hurry. There was nothing to gain by staying. It was only now, a day later, that he was beginning to piece together what had happened. London said Murphy was behind it; it was the first blow from the new head of CI5. There was alarm there about where his intel had come from. Williams, for the time being, was on his own. They didn't want to know.
That suited him well enough, too. This last resort house was his own arrangement, a long lease taken out when this project was only a whisper in the murkier corridors of would-be power. No one had known about it except himself and Hooper. It had the disadvantage of being remote; normally he'd have preferred to be invisible in a small town, but Barnes wouldn't have been easy to keep out of knowledge of neighbors. Even when she had been mainly catatonic, she would sometimes begin an eerie wailing she could keep up for hours.
Luckily, Hooper had taken the time to remove as many supplies as he could carry. The two orderlies were men who'd been with Williams for a long time; their only medical qualifications were being able to follow Hooper's orders, but they were reliable, and committed to the cause. They wouldn't be in any files Murphy could get hold of, and although Sandburg had seen them, they were nondescript enough not to be easily described. If someone had to go into a town, they ought to be able to do it safely.
In fact, he'd have been reasonably confident about the prospect of lying low until they could call themselves secure, if it hadn't been for the doom and gloom coming from Hooper.
"I can't keep the woman sedated for much longer," Hooper had just told him. "Something happened when she started responding to Sandburgsome sort of irreversible shift in her condition as far as I can see. The other night compounded it. The problem isn't going to go away, and she's showing signs of stress and disturbance even with the stuff we're pumping in to her. I don't think it's just the senses. The more I've seen of her, the more I think she's got other psychological problems, too."
"I thought her history was one of efficient criminal activity until this bizarre series of events culminating in Peru? She seems to have disposed of people in her way efficiently enough."
"I know. Everything I have on her suggests she should be ideal for your purposes. But I still think she's showing signs of disturbance beyond the complications of the heightened senses and her prolonged coma."
"What do you want to do, then?"
"I want Sandburg back. I don't care what you have to do to get him. It's that or try to put her back into the catatonic state and, frankly, I don't think we could achieve it now. Do you know where Sandburg is?"
"I could find out, if it's important enough. It would be a risk."
"It's important enough. Otherwise you can write off ever using Barnes."
Williams considered that, but he was reluctant to concede such a complete defeat. His brief contact with London had not all been negative. He'd found out that both Doyle and Sandburg had been treated in casualty, and were assumed to be still in the area, probably with Bodie and Ellison. He still had a brief window of opportunity. They would not be expecting any sort of move from him in the near future.
"Just keep Barnes going for the moment," he told Hooper. "London don't want to be involved with us, but they won't want to lose her, either. I think I can get information out of them, though we'll be on our own for manpower."
"You'll have to get Sandburg in the next day or two. I'd say she's getting critical."
"I'll do what I can," Williams said irritably. "At least they won't be expecting it; if it wasn't for this, the last thing I'd want to do would be go anywhere near Sandburg again."
"Nothing's ever simple with Bodie and Doyle. The fact they're older doesn't mean they're any wiser."
It was Cowley's parting shot. He'd already interrogated Murphy thoroughly over dinner, offered some sharp comments on anything in his current operation that hadn't been quite up to standard of the old CI5, and suggested that he might consider asking Macklin for recommendations for someone to keep his as yet non-existent recruits up to scratch. As for Bodie and Doyle, Cowley reluctantly acknowledged Murphy had achieved what he wanted, but wasn't going to be enthusiastic about it. Elizabeth Walsh just smiled at his final gloomy warning.
"George is jealous," she told Murphy. "He'd still like to be running everything himself."
"He's given me a good start," Murphy said. He was grateful to the old man, and not just for the advice and analysis which proved Cowley had retained his razor sharp mind into old age; it was the mere fact of Cowley being there, uncompromising, that would help keep them honest in a political age.
The other invaluable thing Cowley had handed on to him was a network of contacts that had taken a lifetime to build up. He still had many markers to call in, and he'd made it clear that whatever he could do for the new CI5, he would. The least Murphy could do was keep him fully in the picture, and listen to what he had to say. Even on the subject of Bodie and Doyle, who were now officially on his team, and his responsibility if they did anything out of line.
But so far, Bodie and Doyle couldn't be faulted.
Murphy drove down to Swanage the next day, to find that the Hunters had handed over their study and dining roomhe was going to have to find a generous way of thanking themand that a surprising amount of detailed paperwork was waiting for him, even from the injured Doyle.
Besides the material for the structure of CI5 and full reports on the Williams case, he also found Jim Ellison had produced all the protocols he could have hoped for on making supposedly secure sites Sentinel-proof. He glanced through these first. It was an impressive job, reminding him that Ellison had been Special Forces before he went into the Cascade PD. Better still, Sandburg had added the scientific background that gave the work any extra authority needed to sell it to the appropriate establishments. Murphy had quite a lot of power, but he preferred to work with consent. "Getting to yes" had only interested Cowley when it involved other people saying it, preferably with 'sir' added, but the world had changed, and Murphy was hoping to keep his iron fist for when there really was no other option.
Sandburg, hovering to explain the finer details, looked much better than when Murphy had last seen him. Murphy had glanced though the hospital report, and it was clear the young man wouldn't be really free of the after effects of his abduction for quite a while, but he had refused any medication and he seemed to be coping. In spite of Ellison prowling like a guard dog with overprotective instincts, Murphy thought it was worth trying to extricate a few more memories from him.
"The doctorHooperwent off sometimes," Blair said after some thought. "To London, I think. Sometimes when I was... when they were... when Alex was being treated... he and Williams would talk. They mentioned backers. I think they were in contact quite a lot."
Murphy already had people looking into calls from the nursing home, hoping there might have been some slip in Williams security. "You never heard a name?" he asked. "Nothing to indicate who they might have been reporting to?"
Blair shook his head. "I don't think so. I wasn't really with it. Couldn't think past Alex..."
Ellison shifted; the warning in his stance was as clear as a growl when Blair, for the second time, stumbled over the reference to the woman. Murphy decided not to push it. From what he'd read, Blair's memories were more likely to come back when he was least stressed.
"Just let me know if you do think of anything," he said. "Oh, and I've a message for you from Simon Banks, though he'll probably call himself later. He finally managed to speak to your mother to let her know you were safe and well and in England. He didn't tell her anything about what had been happening to you, though. She thinks you've just beenprocessing, was it?"
"Where was she?" Blair asked. "Jim says she was in Tibet a month ago."
"Pokara. She hadn't decided where she was going nextapparently her friends were moving on to see some guru she'd visited before? Anyway, she didn't have definite plansor anywhere for Banks to contact herbut she had discovered a new meditation technique she thought would help him to be less stressed."
"I suppose he's lucky she hadn't found him a coffee laced with magic mushrooms," Jim muttered. "Sorry, Chief, I know she means well. I expect by the time he calls, Simon will have located her."
Murphy left them to speculate on that one, and went to find Bodie or Doyle. Doyle was less bandaged and marginally less pale than when he'd last seen him, and had drawn up an impressively coherent strategy for how he wanted to go about his side of the new partnership. Murphy put that away, to read thoroughly later, and looked at him searchingly. He'd kept in touch with Doyle a little over the years; had seen him holding to his aims, but more battered and worn down each time, until the final debacle that had ended in his suspension. Now, in spite of the signs of a massive headache, and shadows under his eyes, there was a new life in him.
Murphy didn't want to see anything happen to quench that. "You and Bodie talked things through yet?"
"You know Bodie better than that."
"I could make it an order."
"Wouldn't really work, then, would it? It's the being prepared to talk that matters. The details of how we'll work together aren't the problem."
Murphy couldn't argue with that. "You could try telling him why you did chuck it in back then," he said slowly. "I don't think even Cowley ever really understood your reasons."
Doyle was still good at reading him, even after years of little contact. "But you do?"
"I used to go to see June Cook a couple of times a year 'til she remarried. Made sure she was okay for things as the kids got bigger. She told me once she'd said some pretty harsh things to you when you broke it to her about Cookie."
Doyle's face stopped showing any expression at all. "I was glad she was angry," he said. "Better for those kidsshe was going to fight, not just give up." But there was a ghost of old pain in his voice, and Murphy didn't push it any further. Maybe he was trying to go too fast. When Doyle was fit again, and they'd had a few days to get used to the idea of working together, then he'd have another go.
He didn't fool himself it would be easy.
Cowley had recommendedin jest, Murphy preferred to thinkthat he obtained a building with a large and soundproof basement. Perhaps he should do just that, and lock Bodie and Doyle down there until they actually did talk to each other about the last fifteen years. Of course, even then it would probably be one-sided.
If Doyle had been uneasy with the subject of talking things through, Bodie was much too smoothly dismissive. He was charming and outwardly cooperative, too, which was always a danger sign. He even agreed with Murphy that he and Doyle couldn't simply start where they left off as if the intervening time was irrelevant.
"Don't think Doyle's up to a philosophical discussion right now, though," he said. "Once we're back in London. Will that do? We want to make a go of this as much as you do, y'know."
Murphy was suspicious rather than grateful. "What do you want, Bodie?" he asked.
Bodie smiled that charming smile which over the years had undressed more women than Murphy cared to think about. "Have a heart, Murph," he said. "Cowley's been a bad influence on you already. But now you mention it, there was that DNA test you said you would get run."
Murphy took the neatly bagged samples. "Why do I think I should be asking you more about this?" he said doubtfully.
"I told youyou've been spending too much time with Uncle George. Can you make sure this comes back to me personally? I'm backing a hunch, I don't want to look an idiot if I've got it wrong."
That, at least, was plausible. Murphy decided that if he couldn't trust Bodie to tell him when something mattered to the case, he should never have considered offering him a post. "I'll get it done as fast as possible," he said.
"Thanks. There's one other thing. We thought we might take a look at that nursing home tomorrow morning. Can you warn whoever is there to give us access?"
"It's just the local boys, but I'll see they know you're coming. Any particular reason for going there?"
They were standing outside by his car, and Bodie automatically glanced around before he spoke. "Sandburg thinks Ellison could pick up something that the normal routines might have missed. It is possible, though it's been a few days now."
Murphy hadn't asked anything about Ellison's abilities, but he'd drawn his own conclusions, and when Ellison offered to help him with the security arrangements, there had been a tacit acknowledgment both that Ellison was a Sentinel and that Murphy knew it. Bodie was taking that a step further now, and Murphy appreciated it. Trust for trust. It was the only way that had ever worked with Bodie.
"Will Sandburg be all right going back there?" he asked, thinking of what he had read about Blair's imprisonment and escape.
"He says so. He's keen to do it, anyway. He's not as convinced as the rest of us that Williams will lie low for a while. He thinks they'll have trouble with the woman."
"Well, if Ellison can pick up anything useful, that will be a lot more than we've got at the moment. I'll tackle things from the other end, and look at Williams' possible contacts."
"You'll find they've been careful," Bodie predicted.
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