Thought I heard a rumblin'
Callin' to my name,
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, "Take aim!"
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, don't look back to see.
Doyle glowered then bristled and Bodie saw it coming, the slow burn on the end of a short fuse that promised spectacular fireworks. He tried to stop it, he really did. A subtle tenseness, the lift of an eyebrow was usually all it took to convey his message but this time Doyle ignored him.
Mind, Cowley was just as bad. If Doyle was the fuse then Cowley - Mr Cowley - was the spark that would set it off. Perhaps better to just step back and let them have the barney they’d been heading for since things had gone pear shaped with the latest op because Cowley had an obsession with ‘need to know’ and they hadn’t known enough, according to Doyle’s assessment anyway. Bodie wasn’t one to get his fingers, or anything else, burned on account of his volatile partner or his hard arsed boss. Still, the consequences of Doyle’s temper always had a bad habit of landing on him anyway, one way or another. So, perhaps more vocal intervention was called for.
A small cough and, “Ray, don’t you think …” Just a murmur really, not loud enough to draw attention to himself from unwanted quarters but enough to maybe get through to said volatile partner. All he got was a piercing look from under drawn brows; Doyle was having none of it, his sense of injustice working overtime as usual.
Distraction dealt with, Doyle turned back to his boss, attitude and belligerence intact.
“It was deliberate then, hangin’ us out to dry like that?”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘hanging out to dry’, Doyle. And perhaps you would have been best served trying not to get wet in the first place! I expect my agents to be able to handle themselves in all circumstances.” Cowley was as brusque and dismissive as usual.
“A bit hard doin’ that, when you don’t have all the information … Sir.”
“You certainly had sufficient information to carry out the task I assigned you both. Your own incompetence can hardly be laid at my door.” Cowley paused and looked at them both. “However, seeing you feel that way about things, Doyle, I have an assignment for the both of you I’m sure will suit your delicate sensibilities.”
Oh, great! Bodie’s lips tightened and he shot a sideways look at Doyle, who shrugged with a “What’d I do?” look. Sighing, he rolled his eyes, crossed his arms over his chest and turned his attention back to his boss, who was ignoring them both with studied indifference.
“There is someone I want the two of you to keep a very close eye on over the next few days. Nicole Goossens is a South African national, an investigative reporter with the Rand Daily Mail, based in Johannesburg. She arrived in London yesterday.” Cowley placed the file he was holding open on the desk for his men to see. “My sources inform me she has been sent to Europe on assignment to investigate irregularities in the dealings of the South African Government’s Department of Information and certain publishing houses here and in Europe.”
“Irregularities?” queried Doyle.
“Yes, it seems there may be a consortium of high profile businessmen and publishers staging an advertising campaign directed at ‘selling’ apartheid to Western nations.”
“Propaganda isn’t exactly our department, Sir.”
“Perhaps not. But money laundering, bribery of Government officials and intimidation are and the Department of Information has been linked to all of those activities both here and in their own country.”
“There’ve been rumours the South Africans are involved in arms dealing with Israel too, if I remember correctly.”
“Yes, Bodie. They deny it of course, but the Government has been courting Israeli support for some time and arms dealing is an important part of the courtship. And they don’t hesitate to use intimidation, or force to keep their dirty secrets. You’re to tail Miss Goossens. Protect her if necessary. She could be treading a very dangerous path and I want to make sure nothing untoward happens to her.”
“Isn’t this something better suited to Ruth Pettifer or Susan?” Bodie enquired, hoping for a reprieve. “They’d stand more chance of getting close, tailing her without raising any suspicions.”
“Possibly, but I don’t want Ruth or Susan, I want you and Doyle. Find out who her contacts in London are and don’t let her catch on you’re following her, try to be discreet!”
“Yes, Sir,” they echoed in unison and Doyle dutifully picked up the file as they headed to the door.
Bodie waited until they were safely out of Cowley’s office before he let his irritation show. “Nice one, Doyle. Good way of getting up the Cow’s nose.”
“He was askin’ for it, the old bastard. He never tells us everything and one day it’s going to come back and bite us on the arse.”
“True, old son. But arguing with him gets us dumped with junior grade assignments like this, doesn’t it?”
“Dunno, it’s better than letting him get away with it, like some people I could mention.”
Seconds later Doyle was trapped up against the wall of the deserted corridor, pinned in place by an irate Bodie who was glaring down at him. “Are you inferring something, Raymond?”
“Well,” he drawled, “you’re always cozying up to the old man. Quite the favourite aren’t you? Always full of ‘yes sirs’. Think I’ll get you to ask for a raise next time. Reckon we’d stand a better chance.” The green eyes were serious as they gazed at Bodie. “Think you better give over though? Someone sees us they might get the wrong idea, or the right one. Depends on which way you look at it I suppose.” Then he grinned, the wonderfully wicked grin that always promised so much. Bodie tried to resist, but he’d discovered long ago resisting Raymond Doyle wasn’t an option. Returning the grin he pulled back, waiting for his partner to move off the wall before giving a quick flick to the back of the curly hair. Retaliation was swift but Bodie was faster, dodging the elbow meant for his ribs with ease. The scuffling and laughter continued until they made it to Bodie’s Capri.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit odd though?” Doyle said as he looked through the open file balanced on his knee. When Bodie just quirked a questioning eyebrow at him he went on, “Cowley wanting us to follow this reporter. Not our usual thing at all.”
“Best not to question the Cow, you know that,” Bodie replied, manoeuvring the car through traffic as they headed for Kensington High Street.
“Yeah, then he might actually have to tell us something.” Doyle was obviously still smarting over his latest run in with their boss. “Looks all right though, this bird, doesn’t she?” he continued studying the full-face photograph from the file.
“You mean all right for a South African or all right for a reporter?”
“Nah! I mean all right for a bird.”
Bodie looked for and found the right degree of nonchalance as he glanced at the photo. “If you say so, probably not my type though.”
Doyle seemed to be looking at him closely and Bodie wasn’t at all sure what the look meant. “Getting picky are we? I thought anything with boobs and still breathing was your type.”
Bodie didn’t answer mainly because he didn’t know how. Their first time together as lovers had been in Bodie’s flat with Doyle pacing like a caged tiger, unable to come down from the adrenaline high after two months of undercover work which could have ended badly but didn’t. He’d grabbed hold of the strung-out body, intending to calm his partner, slow his restless energy but when Ray’s eyes had met his he’d seen the naked desire in them and understood, then wondered why it had taken him so long. Their coupling had been swift, passionate and over all too quickly. The next time was better.
They had continued to date women, their changed relationship too new and untried to forgo old habits but in the months since that first time Bodie had come to realise Ray was everything and all he wanted. He just didn’t know how Ray felt and he was afraid to ask. So now, as always, he maintained his silence and concentrated on his driving. After a moment Doyle shrugged and turned back to the file.
The picture didn’t do her justice. Nicole Goossens was beautiful. Tall and slim with blond hair held back at the forehead with clips so that the long tresses framed her face then fell in waves over her shoulders. Light blue eyes and perfect brows in a symmetrical face and lips that turned up nicely when she smiled, which seemed to be often. Yeah, gorgeous all right and Bodie’s stomach tightened a little at the way his partner’s eyes lit up at the sight.
They were parked in front of the reporter’s hotel on the High Street watching as she exited the building, chatted briefly to the proprietor of a newspaper stand before buying a paper, and then hailed a taxi. Bodie started the car, did a completely illegal U-turn and they began their tail.
Five hours later and they were both tired and bored. The reporter had led them from Fleet Street to Knightsbridge, then back to Fleet Street. Cowley had been constantly on their backs, demanding to know where they were and what was happening. The fact they had nothing to report, other than one definite contact in Knightsbridge, Gerald Starling, the name gleaned from a chatty receptionist by a persuasive Doyle, hadn’t gone down well. Currently they were again parked outside the hotel in Kensington High Street, the reporter having disappeared inside ten minutes beforehand.
“And I haven’t even had lunch!” Bodie complained as they watched the entrance.
Doyle cast him a sympathetic glance. “There’s a chippy in the next street, I’ll get us something.”
“Too late.” Bodie started up the car again as the reporter exited the hotel once more and headed off along the street towards the tube station.
“Shit, she’s never getting a tube is she?”
“Looks like it,” Bodie pulled the car to a halt, double parking a hundred metres from Kensington tube station just as the reporter entered the arcade. “Better get your skates on, Sunshine, or you’ll lose her.” Doyle threw him a dirty look as he slid out of the car and hurried across the street.
Entering the station, Doyle was in time to see Nicole walking at a brisk pace past the arcade shops towards the turnstiles to the trains. Ten minutes later they were both on a Circle line train going in a clockwise direction, destination unknown. At least it was to Doyle, squashed into a corner between a bespectacled youth with long greasy hair and a large, middle-aged woman in a hairnet inadequately grasping shopping bags in overladen arms and ample lap. The train had been surprisingly empty when he boarded and he’d chosen a seat conveniently near the door, but with each successive stop it had become more and more packed until all the seats were taken. The reporter, sitting on the same side of the train but several seats away, seemed relaxed and settled in for a long ride. Nevertheless, Doyle tensed at every station, waiting to see if she would make any move to leave the carriage, but she continued to sit, apparently fascinated with her view out the window of changing light and darkness and black dirt encrusted walls as they sped through tunnels and stations.
Finally they reached King’s Cross and Doyle tensed again, but again Nicole remained seated, hardly glancing at the throng of people entering the train and crowding into the passage between the seats. Doyle relaxed, just as Nicole sprang to life and pushed through the crowds towards the door. Doyle was a second behind her, taking a step and a half with his usual cat like speed. A second later he was face first in the lap of the greasy youth, his foot lodged firmly in the handle of an errant shopping bag.
“Ere, mind wot yer doing!” Hair netted woman’s indignant cry rang out over the startled youth’s gasp as Doyle’s nose connected solidly with the zip of his trousers. “Get off me shoppin’ yer clumsy oaf.” Dragging himself upright with an apologetic smile to the now red faced youth, Doyle managed to extricate his foot and stumble to the doors, squeezing through just as they were closing, a cry of, “Ere, you’ve squashed me melons,” ringing in his ears.
Safely on the platform, Doyle scanned the crowds brushing past him in a never-ending rush to wherever it was they were heading. There was no sign of the reporter. In the biggest interchange of the London Underground she could be anywhere. Rubbing his aching nose Doyle reluctantly withdrew his RT from an inside pocket and pressed the button. He didn’t notice the blonde haired figure watching him from the other side of the platform. As he walked towards the exit the woman, apparently satisfied with her evasion techniques, made her way to the Victoria line.
“You what?” Bodie looked at the RT in his hand, hoping it was malfunctioning and what his partner had just said wasn’t what he thought he’d said.
“You heard me. I lost her.”
“Oh, great. How did you manage that?”
“Believe me, you don’t want to know.”
“You know what Cowley’s going to say don’t you? And you can tell him!”
“Why d’you think? Because you’re good at it. And you’re the one who lost her! ”
Almost as a divine intervention Cowley’s sharp voice broke into the conversation, cutting off Doyle’s inevitable invective response. “Alpha to 3.7 come in.”
Bodie rolled his eyes but knew he had no choice other than to respond.
“Progress report 3.7?”
“Yes, well. We sort of lost her, Sir.”
“What do you mean you sort of lost her, Bodie? Either you did or you didn’t. Which is it, man?”
Bodie closed his eyes to ward off the evil aura of an irate Cowley and replied, “Doyle followed her into the tube, Sir. She gave him the slip at King’s Cross.”
There was a significant pause before Cowley came back on the air. “My two best men can’t keep track of one girl.” The sarcasm was palpable and Bodie winced. “But, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised she outwitted you. Go back to her hotel and wait for her to return. When she does return, contact me.” Cowley switched off without further comment.
“You heard the man, Doyle. I’ll pick you up, where are you?”
“On Euston Road, outside the tube entrance, looking like a right prat.”
“Should be easy to spot you, then. 3.7 out.”
Johannes ‘Johnny’ Nkosi checked the documents in front of him. The contents seemed in order and there was no reason they shouldn’t be. Setting them down once again he directed his attention to the small, nondescript white man seated on the opposite side of the desk. He knew he was just being over cautious, but there was something about the man that made him nervous. Perhaps it was his manner, suave and too confident, or the way he constantly used a soft linen handkerchief to wipe at pursed pink lips. Johnny had learnt to trust his instincts, he just wasn’t sure what his instincts were trying to tell him about Craig Roberts.
“Our organisation is very interested in assisting refugees, Mr Nkosi,” Roberts was saying in his impeccable English, lisped through slightly prominent buckteeth. “Particularly South African student exiles, in the way of scholarships and funding for their further education here in UK or in Europe.”
Before Johnny could respond there was a knock on the door which opened enough for Abel, one of the volunteer staff, to poke his head in, “Sorry, Johnny. There’s someone here to see you, says it’s important.”
Almost glad of the interruption, Johnny nodded his thanks to Abel then turned his attention back to Roberts. “The African National Council will certainly look closely at your proposals, Mr Roberts. We always welcome interest in our Association and ways of helping its disaffected people. There are many of our young people, worthy students, who have been forced to leave their country before finishing their education.” Johnny rose, signalling an end to the interview and Roberts followed suit. “Your scholarship programme sounds most interesting. I will discuss this with my associates and get back to you.”
“I will be in London for the next few days,” Roberts said as they reached the foyer. But Johnny was no longer really listening, distracted by the first sight of his visitor. The touch of Roberts’ outstretched hand brought him back and he returned the grasp with vague words of farewell.
He didn’t even notice when Roberts left, or the interested gaze the man switched between himself and Nicole, a look of speculation in his eyes. His attention was all for the woman waiting for him.
“Ngikhona.” Johnny gave the traditional response in a daze, hardly able to believe his eyes. “Nicole is it really you?”
“Of course it is. It’s good to see you, Johnny.”
Johnny lifted his hand hesitantly to touch a finger to Nicole’s brow then dropped it back again, unsure until Nicole stepped forward, taking both his hands into her own. “But … what are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Come, you can tell me all about it,” he said, ushering Nicole towards his office. Turning at the doorway he looked back at his colleagues, all watching the proceedings with avid interest. “Can one of you organise some tea for my guest?” he enquired before closing the door on their startled gazes.
Settled in his office with tea and biscuits that had been delivered by a pretty black girl who couldn’t keep her eyes off Nicole, Johnny took in Nicole’s features again, not really believing she was sitting in front of him. But the evidence was there, smiling at him with the same fresh openness that had always been between them.
“So, what is the Rand Daily Mail’s star reporter doing in London, drinking tea with a known ANC dissident?”
Nicole laughed. “Hardly ‘star’ reporter and I’m drinking tea with an old friend.” Putting her cup down, she became serious. “It’s been eight years, Johnny. What happened after I dropped you by the border? The only news I ever heard was vague reports and rumours. Even your father didn’t seem to know where you were or what was happening. Or he didn’t want to tell me if he did know. It wasn’t until last year I found out you were here in England, with the ANC’s London office.”
Johnny hesitated for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “My father knew a little, but he didn’t dare to say anything to anyone. And I couldn’t write, you know that. I was out of their reach, but you weren’t. It wouldn’t have done you or your career much good to be in contact with me.”
Nicole reached over and put her hand over Johnny’s lying motionless on the desk, giving it a small squeeze. “I knew you would only think of me. But I wanted so much to hear from you.” She slid her hand down so their fingers were still touching. “So, tell me now. What happened and how did you get to become a big executive of the ANC?”
Johnny looked down at their nearly joined hands, his so dark against her stark whiteness. “Obviously I made it across the river,” he said with a smile and she grinned in return. “My contact was waiting for me. I moved north with a guerrilla cadre and made it into Angola, then on to Lusaka. I was on the Executive Council there until they decided I could be more useful here in London.” Put baldly like that it all sounded so simple, but Johnny didn’t know how to convey the terror and horror that had been his constant companion on his journey through countries torn apart by bush wars and his years of exile in foreign capitals. Nor did he want to, not yet anyway.
“What about you, Nicole? I’ve followed your career, but what are you doing here in London?”
Accepting for the moment his need to change the subject, Nicole told him about her paper’s investigations into the Department of Information and her assignment in London. Johnny listened attentively, torn between pleasure at finding Nicole again and concern at what was happening in his country and what she had become involved in.
“I arrived yesterday,” she finished. “Saw my contact today and have one more meeting with him. I should be leaving for Jo’burg by the beginning of next week.”
“We’d better make the most of it then,” Johnny said. “Dinner tonight?
“Yes,” Nicole agreed, smiling “And you can tell me some more about the last eight years.”
In the bedsit atop the butcher’s shop opposite ANC headquarters a man sat at a window watching through a pair of binoculars. Another man lay stretched out on a rumpled bed propped up against a pillow and smoking a cigarette while thumbing through a copy of Playboy, a stack of similar magazines within easy reach on a bedside table. A News of the World lay open to its centrefold by the end of the bed. Against the far wall of the room a television was switched on, the volume low but sufficient to be heard clearly by the man on the bed, who seemed to be dividing his interest between the naked, or near naked, bodies in the magazine and the current television programme, sniggering at the photos or laughing outright at the cartoons on the television.
Finally, after a particularly loud chortle, the man by the window lowered his binoculars and focused instead on his companion, “Ag, man, if you don’t shut the fuck up I’ll ram that bladdy thing down your throat.”
Unperturbed, the man on the bed turned the magazine around, studying the photo of a statuesque black woman from a different angle, “Jislaaik, Fanie, you should see the lekker tits on this one, and the rest. The ou’s are going love these when we get back to Jo’burg. ”
Fanie laughed, “You’ll never get those magazines through Customs, man. "
“Ja, well. All the more reason to enjoy them now, nê?”
The ringing of the telephone on the table beside him saved him from any response.
He recognised the clipped British accent immediately. “The okay has been given for tomorrow, you understand what that means?”
“Ja, of course. Nico has all the equipment together. We’re ready to go.”
“Good. Has there been any unusual activity?”
“No, Nkosi’s followed the same pattern. A girl turned up a while ago though. A white woman, good looking.”
“Yes, I know. She’s a journalist. I want you to follow her when she comes out.”
“What about the surveillance here?”
“I’ve sent Cyril to take your place there. I’m sure Nico can manage if the girl leaves before he gets there. Just you make sure you don’t lose her or she knows she’s being followed. Understand?”
Fanie replaced the handset thoughtfully. “It’s on for tomorrow, Nico. Better get that gear of yours set up. ”
Nico nodded and with a sigh of reluctance placed the magazine back on the bedside table and headed for a table and chair set against the wall beside the television. Turning off the set in passing he settled down in the chair and, picking up a pair of long nosed pliers, began working with the paraphernalia set out on the table.Fanie took up the binoculars again and continued his vigil. Cyril arrived ten minutes later and the girl left ANC headquarters two minutes after that.