kiwisue (kiwisue) wrote,
kiwisue
kiwisue

ACTS OF CHOOSING - Part One


Just bring him in," Cowley had said. "No heavy stuff."

So they'd knocked on the front door of the Clapham terrace a couple of times before Doyle got out his lock-picks and broke in.

It was a standard two-up, two down. There was a lounge room off to one the side of the entrance hall: a roll-top desk took up one corner and a small television set another, with a two seater sofa facing it. An overturned office chair and a battered standing lamp wedged between sofa and wall hinted at a previous disturbance.

Roger Marshall was in the kitchen. His body was tied to a chair, slumped across the dining table, one hand held out as though in supplication. A metal spike – an ugly piece of iron, ground to a taper - had been hammered through his palm into the table surface. A hole in his skull just behind his right ear, from which dark red fluid still leaked, revealed the cause of his death.

"Messy. How long ago?" Bodie asked.

Marshall's skin was pale beneath the coating of blood. Doyle moved his free arm experimentally, feeling the resistance. "A few hours, I'd say."

The little finger on Marshall's right hand had been broken and twisted so that it lay at an odd, unnatural angle. He was missing a couple of fingernails too; only raw flesh showing where they'd been ripped from his fingertips. The torture had been vicious, deliberate.

Doyle saw where the bloody seepage from the wound was shot through with specks of white and grey. There were fragments of bone and brain on the table, and on the floor beneath, where the killing shot had torn through both head and tabletop.

Disgusted, he turned away. It wasn’t so much revulsion at the sight of what had been done to Marshall – he'd seen enough violent death to be slightly numbed to its impact – but, as always, there was a human face behind this killing. Someone who'd made a conscious choice about which nail to pull, which finger to break, when to pull the trigger. Doyle knew his job and it was with the living, not the dead.

He looked around, then motioned to Bodie, indicating the stairs to the rooms on the upper floor. There was little chance they'd find anyone up there, but they did it by the book anyway, Bodie covering Doyle as he moved up to the first landing, then overtaking him, smooth as silk, right to the top. There were two bedrooms and a bathroom, all empty and apparently undisturbed. They had a look around them anyway, shoved stuff about in the drawers and wardrobes, but found nothing.

Back down the stairs and into the lounge room again.

"Remind me what we're looking for, will you?" Bodie asked. He pulled on a pair of gloves before going to examine the desk.


"Papers. A list of names. That's what Cowley wanted to talk to him about anyway. Now – I'd say anything that looks interesting."

Bodie grunted noncommittally.

The bookcase next to the desk contained mostly military history and a few novels, no documents. Doyle took a handkerchief out of his pocket anyway, and used it to pull each of the volumes out in turn, flipping pages, looking for stray papers, anything unusual.

He had turned up nothing out of the ordinary and was about to suggest they call it a complete foul up and leave the search to the investigative teams, when Bodie found something in one of the desk drawers.

"Look at this." He pulled out a small package, tossed it to Doyle, who caught it, felt the weight of it in his hand. "9mm parabellum."

"1939, German. But no weapon." Doyle glanced at a glass case on top of the bookshelf. It was the right size for a handgun although it was unusual for a civilian to have one in his living room. He turned the package over. "Unless someone took it on their way out?"

Bodie nodded.

Doyle gazed about the room one last time before giving up and pulling out his RT. "Better call in. Cowley's not going to be happy."

*********

Cowley's response to Doyle's report was surprisingly calm.

"It's a pity about Marshall, but it can't be helped. We’ll notify the police, let them do their work."

"Are you sure you want the regular police involved, sir? If that list's as important as Marshall thought it was, shouldn't Malone and his boys.…"

"Doyle, listen to me. The list isn't important. It never was."

"What? You're telling me…"

"I'm telling you that we already have the list, and the important thing is not the names on it. Marshall's name was leaked, and I want to know who did it, who they talked to and who wanted him dead. Not necessarily in that order. Now get back here, the pair of you."

"On our way. 4.5 out."

Doyle switched the RT off and turned to Bodie, a sour expression on his face.

"Cowley's done it to us again! It might help if he gave us more information, occasionally." He thought for a moment. "We'll leave this lot for the locals and head back. But I want a quick word with the neighbours first."

"When we came in I reckon I saw the curtains twitch over at number seventy-four."

"Then lead on, MacDuff."

"It's not 'lead on', Doyle, it's.…"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Just move it, alright?"

Once she'd recovered from the immediate shock of finding out her neighbour was dead, Mrs Taggert, the occupant of the house in question, proved helpful. Yes, she'd known Mr. Marshall quite well. The poor man had lived alone, ever since his wife died, and she'd often invited herself over for cups of tea and a chat. She’d seen the gun, too – it had been one his father had brought back as a souvenir after the war. It was a Luger, a special one, he’d said, with brass fittings and a light-coloured wood grip.

"1930's or earlier," Bodie said, as they found themselves on the street again. "No brass on the later ones. There's a small chance the serial number on the ammunition matches the gun. Worth checking out, anyway."

It was as good a lead as any. Mrs Taggert had gone to bed early the previous evening and hadn’t heard a thing. They checked the flats on both sides of Marshall’s with the same result. After the police arrived they headed back to headquarters.

"I thought watchdogs like her never slept,” Bodie grumbled.

“Nothing to hear, probably. There were abrasions around his mouth. He was gagged at some point, and the killer must have used a suppressor.”

“Professional job.”

“Right down the line.”

“Not that many go for the heavy stuff.”

“You want a list? Keneally, Fraser, Coogan, Moody…”

“That’s gangsters, Doyle. We’re talking cold war, not the Krays – aren't we?”

“Cowley hinted at it, but who knows? Could be a contract job. Guess we'll find out soon enough."

The approach to Westminster Bridge was crowded with lunchtime traffic but Bodie negotiated the chaos with his normal efficiency. Doyle watched absently as Bodie drove. Maybe Cowley knew something that would help. Maybe if Cowley had been more forthcoming in the first place, Marshall might still be alive. It was a frustrating thought.

They were stuck, briefly, in a long queue of cars waiting for a set of traffic lights to change. A moped rider impertinently put-putted his way along the narrow space between the lanes, bumping mirrors and knocking the occasional tyre as he went. When the inevitable happened and a metal pedal hit chrome and paint, Doyle was half expecting it - he was still startled though, by the chorus of horn blasts and shouts from surrounding drivers.

He looked at Bodie, expecting to be twitted for jumpiness, but all he got was a fleeting curl of lips and a crinkling at the corners of otherwise serious eyes. He grinned back, for show as much as anything.

"D'you think he'll keep it?" Bodie asked.

"Keep what?"

"The Luger. Do you think the killer will keep it? It's the only lead we have."

Doyle considered that. "Depends. If he's got form - if he's got somewhere to hide it, maybe, but what's the point? More likely to sell it. Some private collectors aren't too fussy. There's the gun shops - or he could take it down the back room of the ‘Beggar’ one night and next thing it'll turn up in a robbery in Bristol. Although that'd be a bit too obvious, wouldn't you say?"

"Only eff he also talks like zis..."

"Marvellous. D'you do a Scottish accent for an encore?"


************************************


Cowley was waiting for them. “You took your time,” he accused, frowning.

“Sorry, sir. We’ve got a possible lead, though.” Quickly, Bodie told him about the Luger.

Cowley nodded. “Aye, it does sound worth following up. Now come along.” Picking up a battered file from his desktop, he led the way out of his office and down the corridor to the briefing room.

Murphy was there, waiting, and Susan. They smartened up as Cowley entered. Cowley waved Bodie and Doyle to a pair of vacant chairs and Doyle felt the tension in the room rise, the prickling sense of things about to happen skating down his backbone. He watched Cowley open the file and pick through the papers inside, impatient to find out exactly what they were up against.

“You’ve read the files about the Fluency committee, of course,” Cowley began. Various nods and noises around the table signalled agreement. “The repercussions of its work are still being felt in the corridors of power.”

There was a slide projector in the middle of the table. Cowley switched it on.

“Burgess, MacLean, Philby….” The first few slides flickered past: the characters displayed were well known and out of reach.

“In their wake, paranoia ruled. The Fluency committee was created in order to root out any remaining Soviet agents in the British intelligence services. As is often the case, it was a good plan, badly executed, by the wrong people.”

More slides, this time the faces were unknown.

“In the end, the watchers were themselves watched. The MI5 men by MI6, the MI6 men by MI5. This second group called itself ‘Farsight’, and in addition to monitoring the Fluency committee and other prominent people in the intelligence services, they investigated the lives of others who were closely connected to them. Ironically perhaps, one of the first operatives recruited for the Farsight group was Graham Burke.”

There was a general stir around the table. "The double agent?" Susan asked.

"Aye, one and the same, just two years before his discovery and conviction," Cowley replied. He brought another slide into view.

"The list that Marshall found contained the names of eleven well-connected people who, through their associations or beliefs, were thought to pose some kind of security risk."

The first slide showed a couple walking, side by side, along a winding pathway in a park. The man was elderly, the woman in her middle years.

"The late John Talbot and his wife, Rowena. He was a professor of political science at Cambridge until he retired eight years ago, and a university friend of Francis Hooper, a senior officer in MI6. She was a student of his. Both were active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late fifties and sixties.”

The projector whirred and clicked, and the slide changed. A younger woman appeared this time, caught on film while out shopping.

"Madeleine Caldwell. Confidential secretary to the Director of MI5, with whom it was strongly suspected she was having an affair."

Another slide, a family portrait.

"Jenny Wilton. Wife of a Fluency committee member. Her brother Dennis, a member of the Socialist Party."

The slides changed over and over. No-one spoke. Jacob Smith and Terence Underwood had died; Sandra Kennedy was in a nursing home. They were a mixed group; lecturers, journalists, civil servants and housewives. The only thing they had in common was their ordinariness and a relationship with someone in the deep heart of Britain's security services. Tinker, tailor, soldier… spy? Doyle tried to find a pattern and failed. Then Cowley changed the slide one more time.

The last face was that of a man, a working man going by the flat cap and woollen jacket, one with the furrows of years on his face. He had been photographed standing in front of a gate, addressing a group of similarly clad men.

Doyle, who had been slouching back in his chair watching the show, leaned forward as recognition dawned.

"Thomas Findlay. Dockworker, union leader."

"I know Tom," he said, swiftly. "What's he doing mixed up with this lot?"

"He was friendly with both the Talbots due to their involvement in radical politics. His name was added to the list after Graham Burke escaped from gaol in nineteen sixty-seven. A few days after the escape, Findlay engineered a stay-in strike at the Royal Docks. By the time the docks were fully operational again the amount of work that was backed up meant that security was less tight than it should have been."

"So is that how Burke slipped out of the country?" Susan said. "It sounds plausible."

"Sounds like paranoia. Nothing provable at any rate." Doyle insisted.

"No, not then, nor since. However, Findlay must be our chief suspect in Marshall’s murder. He has the most to lose." Cowley let them digest this as he got up, walked over to the wall and turned the ceiling light back on before returning to the table.

Doyle frowned. The way Cowley was making a production out of it all was beginning to get to him. A glance sideways told him his partner was in the same boat – Bodie had his chin resting on the heel of one hand, a disgruntled expression on his face.

"Okay, Findlay might have helped Burke get out." That was Murphy. "All that happened over twelve years ago. Why is that relevant now?"

“There’s a union election due in a couple of months. Imagine what publication of the list would do to Findlay’s chances.”

“How did we find out about the list? Where did Marshall get it?” Bodie asked.

“Marshall worked at the Imperial War Museum as a collections assistant. He found a copy of the list, and associated papers, in a box donated to the museum by the by the widow of a Farsight committee member. He approached a journalist at The Times, hoping to sell the documents. The reporter took Marshall’s story to his editor, who took it to his editor-in-chief, who happens to be a member of my golf club. There’s a reason for playing golf, lads, that has nothing to do with fresh air and the pleasure of a pure malt scotch at the end of the day.”

“So what’s your handicap these days?” Doyle heard Bodie murmuring to Susan.

“Six.”

“I thought it was three. Slipped a bit lately, have you?”

Susan made a face and didn’t answer. Doyle bit his lip, trying to suppress a smile. Sounded like Bodie had something on Susan – he’d have to get it out of him later.

“I arranged a meeting with the journalist, Peter Fortune. He’s an Australian, here on a busman’s holiday. He showed me a small number of the documents and said that there were more, but that his source would not release the rest of them until he had a guarantee of immunity and compensation.”

Cowley changed to the next slide. It showed a London street, a telephone box in the centre of the frame, a man inside it holding the receiver to his ear.

“This was taken last night, after I left the paper. Fortune used a public telephone to call Marshall, but we were prepared and traced the call. Once we had our source, I sent Bodie and Doyle to bring him in for an interview. But not quickly enough, as it turned out.”

“Doesn’t tell us why he ended up dead,” Bodie said.

“Yeah,” Doyle added. “He sounded like the sort of bloke who’d cave in at the first hint of a threat. Most villains won’t stoop to murder unless there’s an advantage in it. I can’t see one here.”

“How did anyone else even know about the papers?” Murphy asked.

“I listened to the wire tap,” Susan replied. “Marshall was getting edgy. Fortune kept putting him off, telling him that he hadn’t got agreement for the money, that he was still working on it. Marshall threatened to find someone else who would pay for the information.”

Cowley agreed. “Find who else Marshall talked to and we’ll be well on our way to solving this.”

“Find the Luger…,” Bodie said.

“..and we find the person who last talked to Marshall,” Doyle finished.

“Exactly.” Cowley handed the file to Susan, who was closest. “Susan, you’ll interview the women. Murphy, liaise with the police. Get onto Inspector Kendall – I want to know everything his men find out, preferably before he knows himself. Bodie and Doyle, find that Luger. And bring in Findlay as well. I want to talk to him. That is all.” Cowley stood, waiting expectantly.

Taking the hint, Doyle & Bodie left Cowley’s office, regrouping with the others a safe distance down the corridor.

“I’ll cross-check the names in here with the computer files. Unless you want to read it now?” Susan offered the file to Doyle.

“Don’t think there’s anything that’ll help us track down a gun in London, do you?”

“Probably not. Needle in a haystack territory.”

“Fuck.” They’d be working back, perhaps around the clock, with no guarantee of success. The official dealers would be easy, but he suspected that whoever had lifted the Luger wouldn’t go within a mile of one. He turned to Bodie. “Reckon we could put some of your old mates on retainer? Might be quicker.”

“I’ll call Marty,” Bodie responded. “But he’s a bit high up the scale for this. Might have some connections, though.”

“I’ll let you know if the police find anything,” Murphy offered. “Also, Marriott and Lewis are out there undercover, working a political blackmail case. Westminster meets Soho by way of the East End. Underage kiddies, nasty stuff and slow going. I talked to Lewis a couple of days ago. Think they’d be glad of a distraction, and they’ve got contacts.”

“Thanks,” Bodie said, then to Doyle, “C’mon sunshine. Time to let our fingers do the walking.”

“Don’t sound so cheerful,” Doyle said gloomily, but he followed Bodie anyway, to a back room where there were telephones and directories and a VDU terminal link to the mainframe computer. They settled in and got to work.




Several hours later they’d spoken to most of the legitimate gunsmiths north and south of the Thames, called in favours with a few illegitimate ones and made threats where favours were not enough. They’d got through to Lewis, who couldn’t promise anything but said that he and Marriott would keep their eyes and ears open, and to Marty Martell, who’d sounded affronted by the very suggestion that he would have anything to do with a “museum piece” like the missing Luger.

Doyle rubbed his eyes, the afterglow of screen text floating green against closed lids. ‘Firearms -- dealers -- illegal’, a depressingly long list even when you took out the ones who were no longer in business, or in gaol.

“Here, drink this,” Bodie appeared at Doyle’s side, carrying two mugs of hot tea. “There’s no milk. I think the tea lady takes the leftovers home for her cats. I put some sugar in it instead.”

He made a face, but took the mug anyway. An unmistakeable aroma rose from the hot liquid. “Rum? Where did you scrounge that? Never mind – I don’t think I want to know.”

“Anson’s locker,” Bodie told him sunnily. “He should be more careful with the combination.”

Doyle chuckled. It tasted good enough and warmed him, which was the main thing.

“I talked to Susan,” Bodie said. “According to the computer Findlay’s under a lot of pressure from his opponents and may lose his position.”

“And you think that’s motive enough for murder?”

“I didn’t say that. Worth bearing in mind, that’s all.”

“Oh, I’ll grant you that. I just can’t see Tom being involved. Not his style.”

“What’s he like?”

“He’s no angel. Grew up tough in the East End, look after your own, no love for the police, that sort of thing. I met him when I was in the drug squad – there was a gang bringing in heroin through the port. He was alright then.”

Outside it had turned dark, and the creeping chill of the evening had well worked its way into the room. Bodie sat down next to Doyle’s desk and drank his tea, looking cheerful. Doyle regarded him with a frown.

“Can’t think what you’re looking so chuffed about. All we’ve done is put out feelers. It’s not like we’ve got a result.”

“No, but we’ve laid bait, and reminded a few of how much we know about their ‘unofficial’ business affairs. So now we wait.” He stretched out and made himself more comfortable. It was a façade, Doyle knew, the relaxed pose disguising the sheer power and speed of the man. Bodie at rest was a split second away from alert readiness for action. Like a cat. A big jungle cat, sleek and muscular and deadly.

And thinking about Bodie like that was a one way ticket to trouble, a breaking of the most fundamental of the rules of engagement Doyle had set himself on the first day they’d been partnered. He’d felt the attraction immediately, but he’d quickly worked out that the only way to deal with it was to let it became a commonplace in his life, along with the black humour, the bravado and the pratting around – and now that was how things were, for the most part. Except every now and then it hit him… he looked away, gulped down the remainder of his tea and made ready to leave.

“Nothing more to be done for now. We’d best call it a night, talk to Findlay in the morning.”

“Hmm. Pick me up at eight thirty?”

“Yeah.” He remembered to switch off the monitor after he logged out. “Sleep tight,” he said, flippantly, as he walked out the door.

“Yeah, yeah, sweet dreams to you too,” Bodie quipped back, dark blue eyes watching lazily. There you go again, looking at me, Doyle thought, the kick of pleasure exactly, safely perfect as he left and closed the door.


************************************

“You never did tell me about Susan.”

It was a dull, grey day, the weather report predicting possible late showers. They were driving down Regent Street, the buildings on either side forming ranks that blocked most of the early morning light.

“Well, she’s very coy about her love life.”

“I know. So…?”

“So at last report she was seeing a pro from one of the better golf clubs in Kent.”

“Ah. And how did you come across this piece of information?”

“Sheila in computing. She knows all the gossip.”

“Wonder what she says about you, then.” Doyle considered this for a minute. “I shall have to find out.”

“Best of luck, mate. She’s got a soft spot for me, you know.”

“All the more easily corruptible, then. I bet I could find out things even your mother doesn’t know about you,” he said.

“There’s a lot my mother doesn’t know about me, Doyle.” The glance that Bodie threw him in reply was challenging: it made Doyle think that the game would be worth playing - he could string Bodie along for weeks, drop snippets of information here and there and drive his partner mad. He already had an idea or two…

Just in time he realised they were nearing their destination, close to the heart of Westminster. He made a quick right turn and a minute later pulled up outside a plain brick building in a quiet, tree-lined square.

They walked inside and took the lift up a level to the reception area, a narrow waiting room with a glass fronted window between them and the inner office. They rang the bell and the window was opened by a young, dark-haired man.

“We’re here to see Tom Findlay,” Doyle said, offering his ID, fingers obscuring the identifying ‘CI5’ label. “Ray Doyle. He’ll remember me.”

“Wait here,” the young man said tersely, before closing the window again.

“Friendly lot,” Bodie commented.

“Just careful. Being the champions of the working class is serious business.”

The side door opened, and they were shepherded through the main office to a smaller one, where Tom Findlay was waiting for them. He looked older than Doyle remembered; his once dark hair was well-peppered with grey and he seemed somehow worn down around the edges, although the way he filled out his brown tweed jacket suggested that his solid frame was still more muscle than fat. He shook hands with them both, with the hand that was missing a middle finger and had a ridge of scar tissue across the palm. It was a memento, he’d once told Doyle, of an accident with a loading crane many years before.

"Detective Constable Doyle, isn’t it? Or have they promoted you by now?"

“Not exactly.” Doyle showed him his ID. Findlay pursed his lips in obvious disapproval.

“Hmph. That’s a pity. What’s this about?”

“Murder. And your shadowy past.” Bodie said coolly.

Findlay glared at him. “Murder… my past? You’d better explain yourself, sonny. I don’t care for your tone.”

“Roger Marshall,” Bodie replied. “That was his name.”

“Never heard of him.”

‘Well, it seems he’d heard about you. Seems MI5 had an interest in you as well. Funny how word gets around.”

Findlay laughed, a short, bitter sound. “Do you expect me to be surprised? The establishment controls the machinery of the state, especially the so-called secret services. I know all about their interest, believe me. And so does anyone who puts people before profits and who’s ever fought for a fair deal for British workers.”

“Tom, like it or not, there’s a man dead and your name showed up in connection with the case,” Doyle said, before Findlay could climb any higher onto his soapbox. “My boss wants to talk to you.”

Bodie’s RT sounded. “Excuse me a minute - 3.7.”

It was Marriott. “We might have a lead for you.”

“Hang on.” He looked enquiringly at Findlay.

“Empty office next door,” Findlay indicated with a quick jerk of his head. “I’m not leaving this one.”

Bodie went out to take the call. Findlay looked Doyle up and down. “CI5 - an organisation that does what it likes, answers to no-one – why? For some reason I thought you had principles. Now I’m not sure.”

“I answer to George Cowley,” Doyle said evenly. “and he’s principled enough for me. He’s not fond of the Establishment either.”

“I’ve heard about George Cowley. It isn’t his principles that worry me.”

Bodie returned. “Marriott says a kid came into the ‘Anchor’ over in Rotherhithe last night, was asking the boys there how to sell a World War Two Luger. Said it was his grandfather’s.” He turned to Findlay. “Looks like that connection’s getting stronger. There was a gun taken from the victim’s home night before last, a Luger. And the ‘kid’ who just happened to be selling one last night works on the docks.”

Findlay’s expression didn’t change. “There’s eight thousand men who work there. It doesn’t mean I know them all personally.”

Doyle thought quickly. They could bring Findlay in, or they could go down to the docks themselves, chasing Marriott’s lead, but neither option was certain to resolve the question of Findlay’s involvement in Marshall’s murder.

“Is he there today?”

“Yeah,” Bodie said. “West India Dock.”

“We’ll go there,” Doyle decided. “Tom, you’ll come with us.”

Bodie looked at him questioningly. Findlay didn’t move.

“C’mon, Tom,” he said, grinning. “We’re about to drag one of your union members off to a CI5 interrogation cell – don’t you want to keep an eye on us?” To Bodie, “What’s his name, anyway?”

Bodie had caught on. “Daniel Pedder. From Stepney.”

Doyle was watching Findlay’s eyes and saw the change. It was a tiny movement, a flicker towards Bodie and back, and a narrowing at the corners, but it was enough. Findlay knew Pedder, no question about it.

“Aye, I’ll go with you.” Findlay said heavily. He went to his desk, picked up a pen and wrote a few words on a notepad. He ripped the sheet from the pad, folded it, then looked at the waiting agents. “Some instructions for while I’m gone. I assume that’s all right with you? This office doesn’t run itself.”

“Let’s have a look first.” Bodie held out his hand. Findlay gave him the note and Bodie read it quickly then handed the paper back. “That’s okay.”

“Kind of you,” Findlay said sarcastically. He made no further protest, though, and they left together. Doyle passed Bodie his car keys. “Lambeth Road, okay?”

“Sure.”



They journeyed to the docks in silence. Bodie drove, while Doyle sat in the back with a sour-faced Findlay. Doyle was watching him carefully as they passed the Imperial War Museum, looking for a reaction, but there was none. When they arrived at the port gates, the Port of London Authority policeman checked Bodie’s ID, barely glanced at Doyle, but took a long hard look at Findlay, who, unperturbed, gave him a smile and an almost regal wave when they drove past and entered the docks.

At the Dock Superintendent’s office Bodie went inside to find out where Pedder was working. Doyle looked at Findlay.

“You know Daniel Pedder, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know him.”

“Why didn’t you say something before?”

“Let’s just say I’m a more cautious man than the one you may remember, Agent Doyle. I've learned the hard way not to take anything the police say at face value.”

“Well, Garrison and Potts are still doing time thanks to that operation – and your help.”

Findlay looked thoughtful. “I can see why you might say that. But… it's like those weeds over there,” and he pointed at a spot out on the wharf, where the hard surface was broken and rutted, stalks of ragwort and thistle thrusting upwards, defying their surroundings, “growing through where they took up the crane tracks, the ones they didn’t need any more. If the pavement is cracked, you can pull those weeds out as often as you like. They’ll come back, worse than before.”

“Until the system changes, right?”

“I’m glad you remembered that much.” The smile was almost friendly. “Yes, that’s it. The system’s rotten to the core, and until that’s fixed there’ll always be a Garrison and Potts, or someone else, taking advantage.”

Findlay stared out the car window, across the quay to where the cargo cranes still stood in stately but mostly silent splendour, tall grey skeletal frames dominating the skyline. Doyle watched as well.

When he’d first arrived in London he’d been fascinated by the docks, the ships on the Thames waiting for a berth, the crowds of dock workers swarming through the streets at the end of the day. One by one the docks closed and the dockers left, some for jobs at the container port at Tilbury, many others taking their chances elsewhere, driving trucks or tending warehouses at Luton, Watford or Slough. Some clung to their old jobs, though the work itself was almost gone. And a few, still far too many, sank below the plimsoll line of life in Canning Town and Limehouse until their names turned up on police charge sheets or worse.

“Tell me about Pedder.”

“He’s my son’s best friend.”

“Your son?”

“Joe. You’ve met him.”

“The young bloke in your office? Some might call that nepotism.”

“When I went into full-time union work, Joe took over my old job, here on the docks.” Findlay eventually replied. “That’s the way we do it, although you might not know that. You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No,” Doyle agreed. “I grew up in Derby. No docks – but there’s the mines. I know what you mean.”

“Joe could see the writing on the wall. He worked the docks and studied for a degree at nights. Then he was… injured. I pulled a few strings, found Daniel a job in his place and work for Joe with the union. It wasn’t easy, the Port Authority was already cutting numbers, but I did it, and even Magnus Thompson didn’t hold it against me. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t.” He fell silent.

Doyle had the strong feeling that there was something behind Findlay’s words, another story. Better if he hadn’t… what? Got Pedder a job? Did that have any bearing on this case? All questions, no answers, just fragments of thoughts that were frustratingly out of reach. Maybe something would turn up when they interviewed Pedder. He decided to wait and watch.

Bodie returned. “Pedder’s working in transit shed P.”

“That's over there," Findlay pointed down the port roadway. “Go left when you reach the end of this road.”

The transit shed was a fair distance down the wharves. A single ship was berthed outside with a crane hoisting cargo from her interior. Doyle parked the car and the three of them walked across to the entrance farthest from the quay.

Inside was all strip lighting, solid concrete flooring and steady activity. Supervisors directed incoming forklifts along corridors formed by tall storage racks. The drivers swivelled their trucks in the narrow spaces, raised their loads and deposited them on the racks, then returned to the dockside for more cargo.

They walked down one of the aisles until they found a supervisor.

“We want to talk to Daniel Pedder,” Bodie said, showing his ID.

The supervisor looked at Findlay. “What’s this about, Tom?”

Findlay shrugged. “Not my show, Jack.” He introduced them. “Jack Redmond, Doyle and Bodie, CI5.”

“Is Pedder here?” Bodie cut in.

Redmond pointed to one of the forklifts by the quayside. “He’ll be inside in a minute.”

They watched while Pedder loaded a stack of pallets onto his forklift and started his progression back into the shed. Redmond waved him to their aisle and Pedder obeyed. He was close, a dozen yards or so away, when suddenly he accelerated, heading straight for them.

Doyle leapt to one side as the heavy machinery bore down on him. He saw Redmond jump as well, and Bodie pull Findlay clear, then the forklift was tearing past, its load missing him by inches. Immediately he headed off in pursuit, amazed at how quickly it was travelling. It was almost out of the aisle when Pedder glanced over his shoulder. Seeing Doyle chasing after him his face twisted in panic and he swerved just a little to the left. The body of the truck struck the end of the pallet rack, knocking the supporting beam sideways. With a screech the rack started to collapse.

Pedder was clear, and Doyle, sprinting, also made it, but behind them there were panicked yells, and a short-lived scream. Heart in mouth, Doyle forced himself to keep going after Pedder, He pulled his gun free as he ran, intending to fire a warning shot. Losing valuable seconds he paused, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell dead. Misfire.

Cursing, he ran onwards, although the forklift was now well ahead. It was maybe quarter of a mile to the gate, and Pedder would have nowhere to go after that – he hoped.

Then fate took a hand. As Pedder drove past another dockyard shed, a white van pulled out in front of him. The driver barely had any time to react, but he spun the wheel hard, so that when the forklift ploughed into him it hit the rear of the van, shunting it forward before stopping dead. Doyle saw Pedder fly forward and hit the pallet load before collapsing in a heap.

The van driver emerged from his vehicle as Doyle ran up. He looked shaken, but said he was unhurt. “Had me seatbelt on, didn’t I... I did what I could, but he was never going to stop. Holy mother of god, how is he?”

It was a good question. Pedder’s head was bloodied, and he lay awkwardly against the hydraulic ram of the lift mechanism. He was alive though, and moving, groaning and struggling to right himself.

“Lie still.” Doyle put a restraining hand on his shoulder. “We’ll get an ambulance. Just hang on ‘til they get here, okay?”

He seemed to get through to Pedder, because he stilled, although he was clearly in pain – the moans didn’t stop, and his breathing was fast and laboured. The van driver was already headed for the Superintendent' s office, but while Doyle was grateful for the man’s speedy assistance it meant he was stuck until help arrived. He looked back at the transit shed, but couldn’t see anything, and he ached to know what was happening inside. Was Bodie alright?

It seemed like an age, but must only have been about fifteen minutes, before he heard the wail of ambulances. A couple of minutes later one pulled up next to him, while another went past, down the road towards the quayside. It took a little more precious time to identify and explain himself to the first driver before he headed back that way himself, as quickly as he could run.

Inside the shed it looked as though some sort of attempt at cleaning up the mess was in progress. Bodie, thank God, was on his feet, watching while Redmond was loaded into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher. Findlay stood nearby, waiting his turn, one arm already in a sling.

When he saw Doyle, Bodie’s face creased in a wide, happy smile. Doyle realised that he’d probably had no idea what had happened whilst he’d headed after Pedder, and he’d been gone for a while.

“About time you turned up,” Bodie said as they met.

“Missed me, did you?” He couldn’t help grinning like an idiot back. “What‘s the story?”

“Redmond’s in a bad way, he was buried under a ton. I got under cover in time, Findlay wasn’t quite as quick but he’s lucky – broke his arm and cracked a few ribs, but that’s all. What happened to you?”

“I had a misfire.”

Bodie frowned, and Doyle hastened to add, “It’s okay, Pedder ran into a van. He’s headed to hospital as well – one of us needs to go along for the ride.”

“Flip you for it?” Bodie suggested.

“Nah, I need to get my gun checked. Meet you at the armoury later, alright?”

“Okay – but if you’re staying maybe you should talk to that bloke over there.” While most of the workers were engaged in restoring the shed to rights, a small group clustered around a tall, lean man with a shock of almost white hair. The man was speaking, in a low voice Doyle couldn’t quite make out, but he sounded angry.

“That’s Magnus Thompson. Local shop steward and, apparently, the man who wants Findlay’s job. You think he’d be interested in some info on his rival?”

“Could be. Good idea.”

“I’ll be off, then. See you later.” Bodie clapped Doyle on the back and jogged off.

“Oi!” Bodie looked back.

“Keys?”

Bodie grinned and tossed them to Doyle, who took a deep breath before heading over to the group.

“Magnus Thompson?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Ray Doyle, CI5. I’d like a word with you.”

Thompson’s lip curled in distaste. “Well, I don’t want to talk to you. If you’ve got something to say you can say it in front of witnesses.”

This was tiresome. “Suit yourself, sunshine. But if I don’t get a private chat, I’ll arrest you for interfering with an investigation so fast your head will spin. A murder investigation. I don’t think that’ll do your election chances much good. Oh, and CI5 will oppose bail as a matter of course.”

Thompson took that in. Then he relented. “Andy, Mac, go and help with the clean-up. I’ll talk to the man.”

“You sure?” said one. “There’s only ‘im. The lads’ll back you.”

“I’m sure. Get on with you.”

They left, and Doyle and Thompson walked out of the shed to a spot where they could talk without being overheard.

“I’m listening,” Thompson said. The change in attitude was remarkable, from surly antagonism to almost neutral – Thompson was either an excellent actor or a natural politician. Doyle guessed the latter.

“Has anyone tried to give or sell you any information about Tom Findlay recently?”

“People talk to me about Tom all the time. Mostly complaints. But someone did offer to sell me something. Three nights ago, at The Gun. I refused, of course.”

“Why? Seems to me a bit of dirt might be useful if you were planning on taking over his job.”

“It’s true I have more than a few quarrels with Tom. He needs to retire. He’s run with the hounds too long; he’s forgotten what it means to be a dock worker. But dirt sticks to the one who throws it as well. I didn’t want anything to do with it.”

“The man who had the information – was his name Roger Marshall, by any chance?”

“It was.”

“And was Pedder there at the time?”

“Yes. Yes, I think he was.”


************************************

“”Marshall wanted five hundred pounds from Thompson for the files.” He was on the way to the armoury, checking in with Cowley en route.

“He asked for five thousand from The Times. We’ve investigated his finances. His bank account was severely overdrawn.”

“So he needed money. Why?”

“Gambling. One of Harry Parker’s establishments.”

“I can understand the urgency. Should we bring Parker in?”

“No! Parker runs his businesses through several agents. His involvement is almost completely concealed. We’re working on breaking his cover, but it will take time. Focus on Pedder and the connection with Findlay. Oh, and Doyle?”

“Yeah?”

“Redmond didn’t make it. That’s two dead. I don’t want any more. Alpha out.”

“Four-five out,” Doyle responded, although his sign-off was wasted on dead air. Bloody Cowley!

************************************

Part Two
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